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Projecting WR James Jones' role with the Chargers

James Jones brings plenty of experience to the Chargers' wide receiving group, but he doesn't bring special-teams versatility. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

SAN DIEGO -- It’s game week.

While the first two preseason games are mostly about evaluating players competing for spots on the back end of the roster, the third exhibition game traditionally serves as a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

That likely will be the case for the San Diego Chargers when they hit the road to face the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday in preseason game No. 3.

A trendy pick to win the NFC North for a second straight season, the Vikings provide another good preview for what the Chargers will see during the regular season -- a physical, fast defense coupled with a strong running game, led by Adrian Peterson.

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said his team will focus more on itself during Monday and Tuesday’s practices and then switch to more of a conventional game-week preparation later in the week, with the Chargers traveling to Minnesota on Saturday instead of Friday.

“I’m more concerned about us right now,” McCoy said. “There’s game-planning involved in every game. But we’ve got to get better as a team, and that’s going to be my message from here until the rest of the year.”

That said, let’s get to a couple questions from our weekly Chargers mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: The Chargers kept six players at wide receiver last season, in part to protect Tyrell Williams from being snatched up on the waiver wire.

And although San Diego wants to run more two-tight-end and two-running-back sets, they could be in a similar situation this season.

Dontrelle Inman suffered a big hit over the weekend but was not diagnosed with a concussion. Along with that, Williams (groin) and Travis Benjamin (hamstring) are nursing minor injuries, so the Chargers might need to keep around more depth at wide receiver.

James Jones is an obvious choice to stay on the roster for depth because of his lengthy NFL playing experience.

It’s one of the reasons Chargers general manager Tom Telesco decided to sign Jones in August after the team realized Stevie Johnson (knee) could be done for the season. Finding a player like Jones on the free-agent market in Week 3 of the regular season would be difficult.

Jones is valuable because he can play inside and outside, has experience playing in pressure situations and consistently wins 50-50 balls in close coverage.

However, Jones does not play special teams. So if he is the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on the 53-man roster, the Chargers will lose some versatility on the back end, and might need to keep another receiver who can play special teams and can be active on game days like Isaiah Burse or Javontee Herndon, if he gets healthy.

To sum it up, which players are healthy when the Chargers make roster cuts and how the team wants to play during the regular season will determine the number of players San Diego retains at receiver.

@eric_d_williams: First, we should acknowledge Damion Square’s improvement over the past year. The Alabama product started to come on at the end of last season, earning the role as San Diego’s early-down run stuffer during the final quarter of the 2015 season.

Square has been even more consistent and developed into a playmaker this preseason, with two sacks and a tackle for loss in two exhibition games.

But while Ryan Carrethers has not had the flashy plays like Square, I have seen progress in his play. The key for both has been having a veteran presence like Brandon Mebane on the roster, along with the addition of defensive line coach Giff Smith and coaching intern Jamal Williams.

Square and Carrethers are getting a first-hand look from Mebane how to play the nose tackle position each day in practice, including hand placement and anticipation of where the ball is going to go.

Along with that, the young players get to ask Mebane, Williams and Smith questions during meetings and on the field -- which only helps to further their development.

With Joey Bosa unsigned, Sean Lissemore placed on injured reserve and Tenny Palepoi still working his way back from a foot injury, Carrethers’ case for making the roster is helped.

The Chargers need as many healthy defensive linemen as possible heading into the regular season. And if Carrethers can show he can be counted on to fill a role as a rotational player along the defensive line while Bosa gets into football shape once he signs, Carrethers could find himself on the 53-man roster to begin the season.