Tonight is the first step many players will be taking in the race to make the final 53-man roster for the 2018 Chargers. This includes a number of hopeful UDFAs and some veterans who may soon start to find their spots from last year slowly slipping away.
If another UDFA finds himself still with the team come September 9th, that would make 22-straight seasons that an undrafted rookie has defied the odds. The most recent names to have joined this club are TE Sean Culkin, CB Michael Davis, and RB Austin Ekeler from the previous year’s group.
Some notable names in this year’s haul have been CBs Tony Brown and Brandon Facyson, DT Sheldon Richardson, and LB D’Juan Hines.
Will any of these players make my final 53? Let’s find out.
My Thoughts: I have Geno Smith making the team over Cardale Jones because, despite what Anthony Lynn says about the competition, Smith has been distancing himself from Jones since the beginning of training camp and shows no signs of falling back. Smith has taken good care of the ball and has had his fair share of big plays made over the last 11 practices. Jones has been extremely quiet. My money is on Smith.
My Thoughts: The running back group has often been a shallow position for the Bolts over the last several season. It has always felt like, if Gordon were to find himself sidelined, there would be a major drop-off in production and talent. However, this is no longer the case after Telesco and Co. found Ekeler coming out of little DII Western State University. Now, many fans almost prefer Ekeler to Gordon in certain situations. This is always a good problem to have. Jackson will make the team as the third running back after becoming just the 9th player in Big Ten Conference history to rush for over 1,000 yards in 4-straight seasons.
My Thoughts: Man, what a fun group of players to have on your team. As the easiest group to predict for this team, no one on this list should come as a surprise. Allen and Tyrell should continue to thrive and excel at what they do best. Mike Will looks like a completely different receiver from last year and could be the x-factor of the offense this year. Benjamin is another lock who makes his money on the deep ball and the potential to make a house-call whenever he touches the ball. Cantrell showed major promise before he suffered a deep bone bruise before the team scrimmage and should make a full recovery in time. Davis has showed as much potential as any other receiver on this team after a stellar performance in the early portions of training camp.
Tight Ends (Hunter Henry excluded if he is put on Injured Reserve)
My Thoughts: Green is the only tight end on the roster with an NFL catch and should provide needed veteran experience to a group of youngin’s at am important position for the Chargers. Culkin was a former UDFA that made last year’s team after he proved to be a reliable blocker with a solid pair of hands. Bowman is currently the #2 on the depth chart behind Green and has shown enough in camp to earn the coaches’ trust up to this point. Obviously, there is always the chance Gates gets signed closer to the regular season but I won’t base any predictions off of that potential scenario.
My Thoughts: What was once a barely-serviceable, sometimes excruciatingly-painful group, to watch over the last several seasons, the Chargers now boast an offensive line that is visibly improved from last year where they allowed just 18 sacks, the fewest in the league. Guys from last year’s starting five, plus Lamp, are all locks. Schofield, Pulley, and Quessenberry are phenomenal depth while Tevi is currently the only true offensive tackle depth. While Schofield could also play tackle in a pinch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the UDFA tackles get a look. I personally like Chris Durant from William & Mary.
My Thoughts: The team could very well keep just five players here but, at least to start the season, they will keep an extra guy while Liuget sits out the first four games. Philon has come on strong since the latter portion of last season and could absolutely steal some playing time from Liuget even when he’s back. Square has always been solid depth at this position and more bodies to rotate along the interior is a plus with Mebane on the downhill slide.
My Thoughts: With some of the special packages defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes to roll out, I don’t see the team keeping a ton of traditional defensive ends as guys like Nwosu and Emanuel will often come down to the line of scrimmage and work from there. My surprise pick to make this group could be DE Whitney Richardson who is currently third on the depth chart behind Bosa and Rochell.
My Thoughts: I like the potential talent of the linebacker group although it still isn’t as deep as I’d prefer. Brown bouncing back from a dismal sophomore campaign can pay huge dividends and make this group a surprising bunch. I fully expect Nwosu to take the majority of reps away from Emanuel while White should thrive as a nickel and dime linebacker. My favorite UDFA to make the team is Hines as the LB room needs depth no matter what and I believe he could have had more buzz during the draft process had he started more than a single year in college.
My Thoughts: I feel like the team might carry one more cornerback but if they keep just five, I expect the team to keep Mager out of their weird allegiance to underwhelming former-high draft picks. If this isn’t the case, I expect one of either Tony Brown or Brandon Facyson to win that last spot.
My Thoughts: I think all of these guys are locks other than Watkins. With as much as this team plays in nickel and dime packages, I expect them to carry as many defensive backs as possible. Addae and James will start with Jenkins getting the rotation the most. I’m not sure how much Phillips will see the field once Kyzir White solidifies himself in the dime linebacker role that the former played in most of last year.
My Thoughts: All the safest bets. Telesco love to play it safe whenever possible.