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Thoughts on the Chargers 53 Man Roster

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Now that the Chargers have finalized (for now) their 53 man roster, here’s my take on the cuts they did - and didn’t - make.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback:

Philip Rivers is in, obviously. Cardale Jones looked better and better each week in preseason, and deserves his roster spot. Mike Bercovici was never going to make the roster. Kellen Clemens is gone. That should be good news, but...

Personally, I’d keep Clemens off the roster for good. Still, the QB grouping is virtually as expected.

Running Backs:

Austin Ekeler made it! That’s really good news. Kenneth Farrow was waived-injured with his ankle injury, while Andre Williams and Kenjon Barner both failed to impress in preseason, and paid the price for it. It’s really good to see somebody win the job based solely on performance, rather than experience or status. Branden Oliver is the primary backup to Melvin Gordon, while Derek Watt keeps his place as the lone FB on the roster.

Wide Receivers:

Mike Williams is listed on the active roster rather than the PUP list, which is surprising. He probably won’t be ready until around Week 5, so the team are essentially burning a roster spot for a month. That cost Isaiah Burse, who likely was the #6 WR in the team’s mind if Williams had stayed on PUP. Burse was waived-injured due to the concussion he suffered earlier in preseason. I think he could have contributed to the team, but I have no complaints about Geremy Davis winning that roster spot. He rose up the depth chart with a strong Training Camp and preseason, and could be a nice possession receiver for the team if called upon. Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman were all locks to make the team.

Tight Ends:

This is where Anthony Lynn’s mantra of “what have you done for me lately?” gets a little cloudy. Jeff Cumberland was injured throughout preseason, and was released as a result. But Sean McGrath - who’s also been injured and unable to show the coaches any reason as to why he should stay - makes the 53. Sean Culkin made the roster, precisely because he showed the coaches exactly what he could do. Culkin had a really nice camp and preseason, and he deserves this spot on the roster. He can offer this team something as a blocking TE. If the Chargers change their roster - and they will once players from other teams get waived - I hope that it’s Sean Culkin that keeps his roster spot, rather than Sean McGrath. I don’t see the Chargers carrying 4 TEs into the regular season, Culkin played great in preseason, and McGrath didn’t play at all. That should be an easy decision, but I have a feeling the Chargers might pick the wrong option and stick with McGrath.

Offensive Line:

Tyreek Burwell and Donavon Clark have both been waived-injured. Burwell was a liability at tackle, and Chris Hairston comprehensively deserved to win that spot, which says a lot about Burwell’s performance. Clark had looked great in preseason last year before tearing his ACL, but unfortunately didn’t seem to get back to that same level this year. I thought that Brett Boyko and Clark would be competing for one roster spot - apparently not, as Boyko also finds himself waived. I’d expect at least one of them to end up on the Practice Squad. Sam Tevi finds himself with a spot on the 53 - Tevi had an up and down preseason, but his upside means he deserves a spot to stick on this roster over somebody like Boyko. The Chargers desperately need a swing tackle (Chris Hairston definitely isn’t the answer), so here’s hoping Tevi can develop. The Chargers have only kept 8 OL on the active roster for now, so they may be a little bit thin there until Max Tuerk comes back from his four game suspension.

Defensive Line:

Caraun Reid looked great last year before his injury, but didn’t have a great preseason, and unfortunately played himself out of a roster spot. Ryan Carrethers is gone (in truth, he should have been gone a long time ago), as is (sadly) Kaleb Eulls, who was waived-injured. The Chargers have kept nine bodies here, and have really nice depth with Damion Square, Chris McCain, and Darius Philon. Tenny Palepoi has a game left on his suspension before he comes back to add to that depth, and his arrival will likely push one of Jerry Attaochu (who’s had a real fall from grace) or Isaac Rochell off the roster. I think Attaochu will stay, but he really needs to show the coaches he can still produce, even if it’s in a limited role.

Linebackers:

I’m stunned Joshua Perry was waived-injured. He had moved the wrong way down the depth chart, but he was the team’s fourth round pick just a year ago, and had a role to play on Special Teams. If Perry is unclaimed on waivers he’ll land on the team’s IR, but his injury (as far as I know) isn’t a significant one, and they could easily have kept him on the roster. This doesn’t bode well for his future as a Charger. I thought that there would be one spot open for Nick Dzubnar, Nigel Harris and James Onwualu; that turned out to be extremely wrong, as all three have made the roster. That’s largely due to the fact that Denzel Perryman will soon be placed on IR (if he was placed on IR today, he wouldn’t be eligible to return during the season), but congratulations are in order for Harris and Onwualu, two UDFAs who have earned their spot on this roster. I think Harris is safe, but I could see either Dzubnar or Onwualu being waived in the next few days for a new arrival. This is an extremely thin grouping due to injury - one more injury means that one of Harris, Dzubnar and Onwualu will be thrust into a starting role - so this is definitely a position the Chargers could do with upgrading if the right player becomes available.

Cornerbacks:

There is no reason Craig Mager has made this team. Trovon Reed - who was superb last season when called upon - was waived, presumably because he hasn’t done anything lately to impress the coaching staff, thanks to a hip injury keeping him out of preseason. Craig Mager has also been injured throughout preseason, but he’s held onto his roster spot. This isn’t me unnecessarily picking on Craig Mager, but Trovon Reed has shown more in his NFL career than Craig Mager has in his. That’s the bottom line, and I really think the Chargers made a mistake by releasing Reed. Michael Davis has also been waived, which is surprising, considering how much time he saw with the starters in Training Camp and preseason. I’d find it hard to argue for Mager over Davis, either. To this point in his NFL career, Craig Mager has been a big disappointment, and he’s running out of chances. If he’s on this roster for Week 1 (and you have to imagine he will be, given the lack of depth at the position), he needs to start to repay the faith the Chargers have shown in him. Mager has a chance at redemption, and clearly the team see something in him, but to let go of both Reed and Davis is disappointing.

Safeties:

Well, I certainly didn’t expect Dwight Lowery to be waived. Tre Boston did enough to win the starting job in camp, and the Chargers clearly decided that paying a backup safety $2.5m this year was a bad investment. That’s great news for Dexter McCoil, who deserved a roster spot after impressing once again in preseason. Rayshawn Jenkins didn’t have a very noticeable preseason, but as a 4th round pick was always going to make the team regardless. I’d have liked Lowery to stay as depth over Adrian Phillips, who apparently looks great in practice, but always looks lost in games. I think the Chargers could try to add a safety if one becomes available (and I don’t think it’ll be T.J. Ward), but there’s a lot of teams who need a safety (the Panthers have just one backup safety on their roster right now), so it may not happen. Hopefully McCoil can leapfrog Phillips on the depth chart.

Special Teams:

Even yesterday, I gave Younghoe Koo a 2/10 chance to make the active roster, and that was being generous. The team gave him just one field goal attempt in preseason, which was from just 27 yards. You can argue about the merits of Lambo’s touchbacks vs Koo’s shorter, higher kickoffs, but only giving him one (very short) field goal attempt in preseason - and then giving him the roster spot - is a really strange decision. If this was a legitimate kicker battle, Koo should have had more attempts to see if he could kick one in an actual game from a tougher distance than 27 yards. If the team had decided on Koo earlier in camp, why waste so many attempts on Lambo instead of letting Koo prove that he deserves the spot? I don’t understand this one at all. Hopefully the team made the right decision here.