SAN DIEGO (AP) It’s going to be vanilla vs. vanilla when the San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
For starters, there will be few, if any, starters on the field for the final exhibition game.
Second, these teams meet again in the season opener on Sept. 8, so they’re not about to give anything away.
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”I’ve had a lot of years in the NFL and I don’t think I’ve ever had this scenario,” said new Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
”There is always some element when you are trying to conceal something. That is what’s great about this sport is the mind games of what you are going to show and what you don’t show,” Reich said.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano called it ”a very unique situation we are in” to face the Cardinals twice in 12 days, even though the first one means nothing. ”But it gives us a chance to really prepare for them” for the opener.
The game will be blacked out on TV in Southern California. More than 9,000 tickets remained unsold at Monday’s deadline.
As usual, coach Mike McCoy won’t say which Bolts will start, although it’s a good bet it’ll be almost all backups.
”You’ll see on Thursday night,” McCoy said.
”Well, it will be a first for me, and I think for a lot of people,” the coach added about playing the Cards twice in a row. ”We’re going to have a plan going in on how we’re going to play it.”
Arizona coach Bruce Arians said starters, with a few exceptions, won’t play.
Left guard Jonathan Cooper, the first-round draft pick who missed all of last season with a broken leg, has been sidelined with a turf toe he sustained in the preseason opener against Houston. He is expected to play.
Inside linebacker Kevin Minter, out since the opener with a pectoral muscle injury, also is expected to play. He is supposed to start alongside Larry Foote at positions held by Karlos Dansby and Daryl Williams a year ago.
Rookie Logan Thomas will play the whole game at quarterback.
The fourth-round pick from Virginia Tech has a cannon arm but has had problems with accuracy and at training camp. Then in the opener against Houston, he completed 11 of 12 for 113 yards and a touchdown. Good numbers, even if they were against the third-string defense.
Then there’s Tyrann Mathieu, who has made a surprisingly rapid comeback after tearing his MCL and ACL in 13th game last season.
Arians said Mathieu is ”day to day,” so it’s not certain he will play. Mathieu is itching to do so.
”That first play, get back out there, it will tell everything,” Mathieu said. ”I’m looking forward to that moment I get tested. I’m looking forward to that time when I get in a sticky situation where I have to use my brain.”
Said Arians: ”We’ll go with a lot of young guys and see who can make the roster. They’ve had plenty of opportunities on special teams. Now it’s an opportunity to play and show that you’re than capable mentally and physically to do the job.”
Those who don’t will be unemployed when the teams cut down to the final 53-man roster by Saturday.
”You stay generic,” Arians said. ”You want the young guys to be able to play fast anyway. It’s a similar defense that we go against every day in training camp so it shouldn’t be that big of a thing. We want our defensive guys to just play fast and we’ll keep it as simple as possible.”
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Tempe, Arizona, contributed.