Depending on the player, the Los Angles Chargers’ preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers has wildly different meanings.
For the starters, it’s an extra night’s rest as Chiefs Week inches closer. Backups become first-teamers for a game. As for those on the bubble? It’s the Super Bowl in August. On Monday, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley said those who have the most riding on Thursday’s performance would be wise to keep a clear head.
“We’ve had many guys this last (preseason) game make the team, but we’ve also had guys because of this game not make it,” Bradley said. “And generally, the ones that don’t make it – that are on the bubble – they’re really distracted.”
Instead of playing how they practice, Bradley explained that players can get caught up thinking too much about things that don’t equate to optimal performance.
“If they go out there and they’re like, ’Boy, I’m on the bubble. This is my chance. What happens if I don’t do well? What happens if I do well? How many guys are behind me?’ – If they do that, they generally don’t play very well.”
There are several resources in the building for those who are playing for a job this week. Bradley pointed to Assistant Defensive Line Coach Eric Henderson as someone who’s been in this exact situation and can give advice on how to best approach it.
Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler locked in a roster spot a year ago with an exceptional preseason finale. He’s one of just several players who will be counted on for support on Thursday night.
“The veterans are great,” Bradley said. “Really, they’ve been awesome this whole preseason. But we’ll even need them more in this game.”
DERWIN JAMES GAINING CONFIDENCE
After Saturday’s game against the Saints, safety Derwin James – who intercepted quarterback Drew Brees on the game’s third play – explained how much things have slowed down for him, even in the last two weeks. On Monday, Bradley agreed that the rookie has grown confidence in the defense.
“If he makes a mistake now, now he knows,” Bradley said. “He’ll come over and go, ‘That was on me’ where I couldn’t say that a couple of weeks ago.”
Bradley also referred to James as a “natural leader” with “a great spirit about him” that will continue to reveal itself with time.
“(He’s) very animated,” Bradley explained. “He’s got a lot of energy, but I think that personality would show more once he gains even more confidence in the system.”