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Los Angeles Chargers final 53-man roster projection

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Three-quarters of the Los Angeles Chargers 2018 preseason is in the books and, except for maybe two or three roster spots, the coaching staff should have a pretty good sense of what their roster will look like come September 1.

This is a strange year because several of the presumed backups haven’t really earned their roster spots. I think this is particularly true on the offensive line and at tight end, where none of the reserves inspire a great deal of confidence and the tackles, in particular, have been alarmingly bad.

Anyway, let’s take a look at how I expect the roster to shake out this weekend:

Quarterback:

Philip Rivers

Geno Smith

My Thoughts: Geno Smith earned the backup quarterback job by outplaying Cardale Jones in every measurable way this preseason. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who can’t beat out Geno Smith doesn’t deserve a roster spot or a practice squad spot. Time to cut bait on Anthony Lynn’s pet project.

Side Note: For some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that Lynn’s personal connection with Jones will somehow land “12-gage” on the roster as the third quarterback. I’m giving Lynn the benefit of the doubt here because he hasn’t been shy about cutting players who can’t help the team, but my confidence is wavering.

Running back:

Melvin Gordon

Austin Ekeler

Detrez Newsome

My Thoughts: This is probably the deepest and most dynamic backfield the Chargers have had since the days of LT, Darren Sproles and Michael Turner; and I think we can all agree that Newsome is the ball-carrying, pass-catching, big-play-making, touchdown-scoring, standing-back-flipping third running back we’ve all been craving. That kid earned his spot and then some.

Side note: Personally, I’d try to sneak seventh-round pick Justin Jackson through waivers and place him on the practice squad. I just don’t think he earned the right to be protected and I can’t imagine anyone would be lining up to sign a seventh-round running back who has hardly practiced, let alone played this preseason.

Fullback:

Derek Watt

My Thoughts: It is what it is; just accept it and move on.

Wide Receiver:

Keenan Allen

Tyrell Williams

Travis Benjamin

Mike Williams

Geremy Davis

Artavis Scott

My Thoughts: Both Geremy Davis and Artavis Scott earned the right to fill out the wide receiver depth chart with their play this preseason. Davis showed considerable growth both as a receiver and a special teams contributor, and Scott displayed an uncanny knack for making plays in the short and intermediate passing game- particularly on third down. He might even provide some value returning kicks down the line.

Side note: There is an outside chance the team could keep Dylan Cantrell as the seventh receiver with the intention of moving him to the injured reserve after the final cuts are announced. This approach would allow them to transfer him to the IR without exposing him to the waiver wire, which would not be an option if they tried to place him on IR before final cuts. It’s the same approach they took with Denzel Perryman last year.

Tight Ends:

Virgil Green

Antonio Gates

Sean Culkin

Braedon Bowman

My Thoughts: Right now my money is on the team signing Antonio Gates. I don’t think the move upgrades the tight end group as much as some people think it will, but I still think it happens. While I don’t believe Braedon Bowman has earned a roster spot, I do think the team will go for quantity over quality in hopes of having enough bodies to limit Gates’ snaps and keep him fresh for as long as possible.

Side Note: Eric Williams recently reported the team is expected to place Hunter Henry, who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, on the IR following final cuts, so he may very well join Dylan Cantrell as a temporary member of the roster before being placed on injured reserve. I didn’t include Henry on my roster because they can just as easily leave him on the PUP, which is what Tom Telesco said he thought they’d do a couple weeks ago.

Offensive Line:

Russell Okung

Dan Feeney

Mike Pouncey

Michael Schofield

Joe Barksdale

Forrest Lamp

Sam Tevi

Spencer Pulley

Scott Quessenberry

My Thoughts: In my opinion, none of the projected backups earned the spots I believe they’ll “win” out of camp. Tevi and Quessenberry, in particular, have been terrible during the preseason. I would be stunned if Tom Telesco didn’t add some depth via a waiver wire addition.

Defensive Ends:

Joey Bosa

Melvin Ingram

Isaac Rochell

Chris Landrum

My Thoughts: While there aren’t any real surprises regarding which ends made the roster, I’d say Isaac Rochell has been a pleasant surprise in his extended snaps with the first team defense. Even Landrum exceeded my expectations. This has the makings of a surprisingly deep and productive position group.

Defensive Tackles:

Brandon Mebane

Darius Philon

Justin Jones

Damion Square

Steven Richardson

My Thoughts: This is not a group that inspires a great deal of confidence. Corey Liuget will begin the season on the suspended list and won’t count against the active roster, Brandon Mebane is a shell of himself, Darius Philon is banged up, and third-round pick Justin Jones has yet to appear in a preseason game. That leaves Damion Square and Steven Richardson as the only members of this group who seem to be ready to start the season.

Side Note: I should point out the team claimed defensive tackle Marcus Hardison off of waivers after the Saints game and his presence could change things a little, but I’d like to see where he fits in before adding him to my roster. There was also a recent report suggesting Johnathan Hankins had met with the team and will be signing somewhere soon.

Linebackers:

Denzel Perryman

Kyzir White

Uchenna Nwosu

Hayes Pullard

Kyle Emanuel

Jatavis Brown

Nick Dzubnar

My Thoughts: We should be looking at a starting trio of Perryman, White and Nwosu before long. A big shout out goes out to Hayes Pullard, who looked fantastic and was arguably the best MIKE on the roster all preseason. He absolutely earned his roster spot. It won’t surprise me if the Chargers scour the waiver wire for another linebacker.

Cornerbacks:

Casey Hayward

Trevor Williams

Desmond King

Michael Davis

Craig Mager

My Thoughts: The only real surprise in this group is fourth-year corner Craig Mager, who spent most of 2017 on the practice squad. He opened the preseason as the fifth corner, managed to blend in with the first and second team defenses, and did nothing to hurt his case for making the roster. He played pretty well, and I don’t think anyone behind him did anything to force his way into the conversation, so I suppose you can say he earned it.

Safeties:

Derwin James

Jahleel Addae

Rayshawn Jenkins

Adrian Phillips

My Thoughts: No real surprises here as the team keeps the only four deserving safeties on the roster. As is the case at offensive line, tight end, and linebacker; the safety room seems ripe for a veteran waiver wire addition considering the relative youth and inexperience on the depth chart (Addae notwithstanding).

Kicker:

Caleb Sturgis

My Thoughts: Eeny…meany…miny…oh, sorry, my bad. Despite suggestions to the contrary, keeping two kickers does nothing to promote the stability this team is trying to establish at the position, so let’s just pick one and move on. As long as the guy they choose makes 85%+ of his kicks and can make kicks from 45+, I’m good.

Punter:

Drew Kaser

My Thoughts: Kaser was pretty good last season and has looked good in the preseason. I find it hard to believe he won’t retain his job.

Long Snapper:

Mike Windt

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen; that’s my final prediction for the Los Angeles Chargers 53-man roster. While I didn’t include them on my roster, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see either Dylan Cantrell or Hunter Henry wind up a temporary member of the roster before heading to the injured reserve. I also fully expect the team to supplement the offensive line, and maybe one other position group, via the waiver wire once cuts have been announced. And, like everyone else, I’m hopeful the team will add Johnathan Hankins sooner than later.