The Chargers play their final preseason game tonight against the San Francisco 49ers and this game weighs heavy on a few Chargers players that are currently on the roster bubble. San Diego needs to trim its roster to 53 by this Saturday, September 5th at 4 EST. Here are a few players and position groups to watch tonight as the 53-man roster cuts loom and players try to make a final push to earn a job .
Before we start, it's important to note that Antonio Gates is suspended for the first four games of the season and his roster spot will NOT count against the final 53, there is essentially an open slot for the first four weeks that the Chargers can fill from any position. That means that the Chargers can hold onto a player for four weeks that they fall in love with and not cut them, exposing them to be picked up by another team. Once Antonio Gates returns, they can then stash the player on the practice squad, keeping them in-house.
Final Wide Receiver spot
The Chargers have four wide receivers that are locks to make the roster: Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones; but after that, it is a toss-up. When it comes to the Chargers wideouts, they will keep five, or at most six, on this roster going into the season. The battle to watch tonight is between:
It's a dead-heat between these guys, with each of them bringing something unique to the table. Whether it's Inman's ability to snatch the ball out of the air, Pettis' route-running chops, Herndon's return skills, or Williams' knack for being able to cook in the middle of the field, it will depend on which player makes the most of their opportunity tonight that will really give some of these guys the edge.
Back-up Offensive Guard
Johnnie Troutman has said he's "targeting a Week 3 return." Whether you believe that or not, the Chargers need a back-up Guard on their depth chart. The battle to watch tonight is between:
Though I believe Michael Huey isn't as close to the pack as the other three listed, he does deserve some recognition, especially because of how much the organization has said they value his play this training camp. It is most likely Jeremiah Sirles' job to lose, but both Kenny Wiggins and Craig Watts have shown flashes this preseason.
5th (or 6th) Outside Linebacker
The news of the severity of the Tourek Williams injury has been suspiciously quiet. We know Tourek broke his right foot in the preseason opener, but no word on a possible return date. Head Coach Mike McCoy is obviously mum on the subject, as he always is, but that leaves a big question mark for the depth at Outside Linebacker. Whether they keep his roster spot for the final 53 or not, the Chargers will need to bring another guy outside of Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu, Kyle Emanuel and Cordarro Law. So Tourek Williams would make five but it's safe to say he won't be ready for the opener. So, who will fill his role that can play against Detroit? The battle to watch tonight is between:
Underwood is the more familiar face within this Chargers organization, but the UDFA Ryan Mueller has made some plays, including the almost strip/sack last week that, while overturned, ended up being a QB Hit on the incompletion. Who will be the 5th (or 6th) Outside Linebacker?
5th Inside Linebacker
The Chargers do not have to carry five Inside Linebackers, but they also didn't have to carry four Running Backs last year. That's because Branden Oliver made a case for himself last preseason and this year Nick Dzubnar is doing the same. Dzubnar has become one of the best Special Teams stand-outs this preseason, and has also been all over the field on defense, even collecting a sack. His value most likely wouldn't be at Inside Linebacker in 2015, but it could be an asset on Special Teams. Let's see if Nick Dzubnar can continue his strong preseason play tonight.
Back-up Tight End
Maybe the one who could benefit the most from the Antonio Gates suspension is back-up Tight End Kyle Miller. The Chargers coaching staff has been singing his praises during camp and could be a guy that would make sense keeping on your roster the first four games. If the Chargers are going to stick to their two Tight End-set looks without Gates on the field, they would need depth at the position. LaDarius Green and John Phillips would be the starting Tight Ends, while David Johnson would get his (somewhat) Fullback alignment. After that, the roster is bare of Tight End depth. Kyle Miller could be that guy.