Nick Dzubnar’s final audition with the Chargers is Thursday night against the 49ers in Santa Clara.
That he’s made it to the final round is an accomplishment.
Sure, there’s still a chance (I say small) the undrafted rookie inside linebacker out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo won’t make the team. But, after a strong showing in training camp and an impressive preseason, the Chargers would be foolish not to keep him.
He plays with relentless energy, he trusts his instincts and seems to be involved in every play.
“Nick is a young guy out there just running around trying to hit somebody,” Donald Butler said when asked about Dzubnar’s play this preseason. “That’s what you want to see in a young guy. High-energy guy. High-effort guy. He’s picking up the system fairly fast, which is always good for a young guy and obviously just going out there and doing what he needs to do. That’s what you expect, or hope, from a young guy coming in.”
Not too long ago, Andrew Gachkar was that guy for the Chargers. Although Gachkar was drafted (7th round in 2011) by San Diego, he and Dzubnar are similar in that both exceeded expectations upon arrival. Moreover, Dzubnar, like Gachkar, could work his way on to this Chargers team as a contributor on special teams.
Something Gachkar was pretty good at.
“Coming into this, I new special teams was going to be huge,” Dzubnar said. “I knew special teams was going to work for me because of just the way I play. I’m a hard-worker that likes to fight and likes to beat up guys. I think special teams are going to work in my favor and so far it has. Hopefully I just have proven to the special teams coaches that I can play.”
Perhaps what’s stood out the most so far, though, is Dzubnar anchoring the middle of the Chargers second and/or third-team defense. He leads the Chargers with 18 total tackles and has notched two sacks this preseason.
“I feel like I have really good instincts,” Dzubnar said. “I feel like I’m naturally around the ball a lot. I feel like you just can’t lie about production. I feel like I’m a very productive player.”
Dzubnar’s production so far has certainly led to more opportunities for the former hockey player. Like Gachkar, he could eventually find a role in the Chargers sub-packages on defense, perhaps in passing situations. Donald Butler, Manti Te’o, and Kavell Conner are not speedsters, and Denzel Perryman was not drafted in the second round to play zone.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just to say consistent and keep building on the progress I’ve made,” Dzubnar said. “I think I’ve made an impression on all the coaches. I think I’ve made an impression on a lot of the veterans as well so when they come up and compliment me, it means a lot. It means they see it, the coaches must see it so I must be doing something right.
“Are there little things I can work on to get better yet? Yeah, I’m not the best at everything. I’m not the best at certain techniques. But, it’s a process. This is the NFL. You got to get better each day. You got to work on your weaknesses, but outhustling people and running to the ball every play is something I’m not scared about or worried about.
Dzubnar shouldn’t be worried about a job, either.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
PODCAST: Around the town with Coach Kentera – Andrew Burer & Coach break down the Chargers third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.