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53 man roster projection: Who needs to ball out on Thursday?

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With one preseason game left, who needs to have a flawless game to make the roster.

Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Teams only have to make one cut down to their rosters this season. In years past, teams had to drop from 90 to 75 before the final preseason game, then down to 53 shortly after that final game.

This year however, the teams get to play all 4 preseason games then they must basically cut their roster in half.

So I wanted to try and throw together a projection of who I think SHOULD make the team (I’ll make note of where I think the team will make a different choice than mine) to decide who I’ll be taking special note of in the final audition on Thursday night.

Offense - 24

Quarterback - 3
Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens, Cardale Jones

There are rumors that the team is going to go with 3 QBs going into the season, and I think they just might. I think they should only keep Jones, because Clemens obviously isn’t the QB of the future, and he isn’t any better than Jones so keeping him doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, but it looks like the team just can’t let him go.

Runningback - 3
Melvin Gordon, Brandon Oliver, Andre Williams

I really want to put Austin Ekeler as the 3rd back, and if he has a good game on Thursday, I just might have him there when I do my final projection on Friday morning. I won’t go into a full evaluation, but he’s done more with his snaps (both on offense and special teams) than any of the other backup RBs this preseason. I have Williams there because the team seems to really like him and none of the other backs, save Ekeler, really did anything to dissuade the team from keeping him.

Fullback - 1
Sean Culkin

Im probably going to be wrong here, but I don’t care. Sean Culkin is already a better FB than Derek Watt, and he can play TE. He has been playing with the 1s with Antonio Gates getting rest and Sean McGrath injured, and I’d probably keep him over Sean McGrath anyway.

Tight End - 3
Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Jeff Cumberland

Keeping Culkin as the “FB” allows the team to keep Cumberland as the 3rd TE over Sean McGrath. Cumberland offers a lot more in the passing game and if I’m being honest, I’m over Sean McGrath. The decision between the 2 might come down to who gets healthy first, so if only 1 of them can play Thursday, they probably just won the spot.

Wide Receiver - 5
Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Geremy Davis

Inman needs to be healthy to make this team so if he doesn’t play Thursday, he might have something to worry about. I’m fairly certain that 1st round pick Mike Williams is going to start the season on the PUP list so he won’t take up a roster spot initially. The team SHOULD be extra cautious and not rush his return. Isiah Burse is likely the “next man up” at WR.

Offensive Line - 9(10 to start)
Russel Okung, Matt Slauson, Spencer Pulley, Kenny Wiggins, Joseph Barksdale, Dan Feeney, Max Tuerk, Chris Hairston, Tyreek Burwell, Brett Boyko

I think Sam Tevi out played both Hairston and Burwell this preseason, however it was against lesser competition and I think that he is a good candidate to be able to to stash on the PS. On paper this starting unit is an upgrade over last year and could grow into a really solid group, especially when they get Forrest Lamp back next year. Brett Boyko is the “10th” guy here since Tuerk starts the season suspended.

Defense - 26

Defensive Tackle - 5(6)
Brandon Mebane, Corey Liuget, Tenny Palepoi, Damion Square, Caraun Reid, Ryan Carrethers

Palepoi and Square have shown pretty good improvement this offseason. Both of them have been flashing some pass rush ability and burst in the first 3 preseason games. If Caraun Reid can have a big game on Thursday that could make things interesting, but at this point I think he’s on the outside looking in. Ryan Carrethers gets to keep the dream alive while Palepoi is suspended.

Defensive End - 5
Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Chris McCain, Darius Philon, Issac Rochell

The team just cant trust Jeremiah Attaochu to stay healthy, and even if they could, he hasn’t really done much. I think it’s time to move on. Chris McCain has been a stud this preseason and has earned a spot. Philon and Rochelle haven’t been outstanding, but they bring some size to the DE position that the team needs.

Linebacker - 6
Jatavis Brown, Korey Toomer, Kyle Emanuel, Nigel Harris, James Onwualu, Nick Dzubnar

I think Denzel Perryman will be on the IR designated to return list. I can’t see them wasting a roster spot as he heals for what could be half the season. The team appears to love Nigel Harris, as he’s gotten time with the 1’s on and off, and he hasn’t been bad this preseason. James Onwualu is in the same boat as Harris, he’s played well so far, both on Defense and Special teams. Joshua Perry appears to have regressed and hasn’t done much through the first 3 games, although he was drafted by the team and is the biggest LB on the roster, so I could possibly see that being the argument for keeping him over one of the two UDFAs. Dzubnar stays because once again the team loves him, and well you do need to have someone to cut when Perryman comes back.

Corner - 5
Jason Verrett, Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, Desmond King, Michael Davis

Trovon Reed’s lingering injury this preseason has likely cost him a job. Trevor Williams has been ok, but not great. Michael Davis has been shown a lot of love by the team for his practice performance, but in games has been pretty underwhelming. I think it’s finally time to end the Craig Mager experiment, thank God. Everyone else is probably just auditioning to be on the PS at this point.

Safety - 5
Jahleel Addae, Dwight Lowery, Tre Boston, Adrian Phillips, Dexter McCoil

Rayshawn Jenkins is going to wind up being the odd man out here. The team still loves Phillips and he’s done just enough on the field to not change their minds. Dexter McCoil has has 2 very good games in a row and has solidified his spot. Jenkins might be able to be squeezed in if the team only keeps 2 QBs or skimps somewhere else, but I just don’t see him making it.

Special Teams - 3

Long Snapper - 1
Mike Windt

No explanation needed.

Punter - 1
Drew Kaser

Kaser won the competition for the punting job. His net average of 43.43 yards per punt far surpasses Toby Baker’s 35.87 net average. Kaser does still need to work on his hang time, as 6 of his 9 punts had attempted returns.

Kicker - 1
Josh Lambo

Unless Younghoe Koo is some how able to go 5 for 5 from 50+ yards in this final preseason game, I think Lambo keeps the job. Lambo made his only FG attempt so far, from 53 yards, and is 4 for 4 on extra points. Koo is 2 for 2 on extra points. Lambo is also forcing more touchbacks on KO’s thank Koo, however the average return on all of Koo’s kickoffs is less yardage than a team gets for a touchback, so that’s kind of a hard category to judge. It’s a shame they haven’t had more chances to kick FGs in games to make this more of a competition.

So there you have it. After running through that, Ill be closely watching the snaps that the LBs are getting, and watching for some of these vets that have been injured (Cumberland, Attaochu, Reed) to get in the game and show they deserve to keep their spot.