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Analyzing the Chargers’ initial 53-man roster

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Cut day has come and gone in the NFL and, needless to say, it did not come without a few surprises as far as the Los Angeles Chargers are concerned. The team kept a couple players who probably didn’t earn it, cut a few players who seemed to have earned back-end roster spots, and cut an offensive lineman no one saw coming.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the Chargers initial 53-man roster as we wait for players to clear waivers, the team to announce its practice squad, and hopefully, for a couple waiver wire additions…

Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers

Geno Smith

Cardale Jones

I suggested keeping Cardale Jones as a potential cut day curveball earlier today, so while I’m not overly surprised, I am disappointed with the decision. Jones was extremely erratic throughout camp and the preseason and looked like he was having a hard time with the speed of preseason games. To be blunt, I just don’t see the value in carrying Jones after losing out to Geno and, at least in my opinion, it appears as though Anthony Lynn let his personal relationship with the quarterback taint his ability to evaluate him objectively.

Running backs

Melvin Gordon III

Austin Ekeler

Detrez Newsome

Justin Jackson

Keeping Justin Jackson was another cut day curveball I anticipated earlier today. In my opinion, Jackson is another player who didn’t earn a roster spot following a training camp injury that cost him the first three preseason games. While I’d prefer the team not carry four backs, I think it’s probably temporary. It wouldn’t surprise me if Detrez Newsom finds his way to the practice squad late next week if/when the team needs the roster spot for a free agent or waiver wire addition. I just have a hard time seeing them carry four backs into the season.

Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen

Tyrell Williams

Travis Benjamin

Mike Williams

Geremy Davis

JJ Jones

*Artavis Scott – placed on Reserve/Injured list, AKA Injured Reserve

There is a lot going on here. First of all, the Chargers did not cut or waive Artavis Scott, they placed him on the reserve/injured list, which is also referred to as the injured reserve. Thanks to the rule change in 2016, each team has the ability to bring two players off of the IR after eight weeks on the list and those players do not have to be given a return designation up front.

With Scott injured, the sixth wide receiver spot went to undrafted rookie JJ Jones. It’s a rough break for Scott (no pun intended) and a bit of good fortune for Jones who, at least in my opinion, kind of fell into a roster spot. While JJ showed considerably promise as a return specialist, it’s hard to argue he offers much value as an NFL wide receiver. We’ll see if he sticks once the team starts moving pieces around to make room for free agent and waiver wire additions.

I’m a little surprised the team didn’t place Dylan Cantrell on the injured reserve. Not that he necessarily earned the right to be protected, I just didn’t think the team would be too keen on exposing him to the waiver wire. Hopefully he clears waivers and can be added to the practice squad.

Tight Ends

Virgil Green

Sean Culkin

Yes, you read that right – the Chargers only kept two tight ends on the initial roster. While somewhat surprising from a numbers standpoint, it makes sense. None of the other tight ends earned or deserved a roster spot. It’s probably safe to assume the Chargers and Antonio Gates will agree on a new contract and, given the alarming lack of production from this group in the preseason, it wouldn’t surprise me if Gates wasn’t the only addition. I just don’t think keeping three tight ends is enough when one of those tight ends is a 37-year old Antonio Gates.

Offensive Line

Russell Okung

Dan Feeney

Mike Pouncey

Michael Schofield

Joe Barksdale

Forrest Lamp

Scott Quessenberry

Sam Tevi

Cole Toner

No, I didn’t forget to list last year’s starting center Spencer Pulley. The decision to cut Pulley are arguably the biggest surprise on the initial 53-man roster, but it seems last year’s training camp darling just didn’t show enough improvement to earn a roster spot. Assuming he clears waivers, I suspect the team will try to add Pulley to the practice squad. It would be a complete shock if the team didn’t add a veteran tackle off the waiver wire over the next few days.

Defensive Ends

Joey Bosa

Melvin Ingram

Isaac Rochell

Chris Landrum

Finally, a position group that played out as expected.

Defensive Tackles

Brandon Mebane

Darius Philon

Damian Square

Justin Jones

As we all know, Corey Liuget is suspended for the first four games of the season. He does not count against the 53-man roster while he’s suspended or the salary cap while he’s suspended.

As you may have noticed, undrafted rookie Steven Richardson did not make the team’s 53-man roster. This is difficult to fathom because “Stove” was arguably the most consistent defensive tackle on the roster through out the preseason, and it becomes even more confusing considering Mebane’s physical decline and the fact that Philon and Jones are both banged up. They needed the extra body on the interior line and Richardson earned his spot, but they apparently valued Cardale Jones and Justin Jackson over former Golden Gopher defensive tackle.

I’m trying to get beyond this by convincing myself the team will sign free agent Johnathn Hankins and Richardson will land on the practice squad. Time will tell.

Linebacker

Denzel Perryman

Kyzir White

Uchenna Nwosu

Hayes Pullard

Jatavis Brown

Nick Dzubnar

I thought there was a chance the team might keep undrafted free agent D’Juan Hines over Nick Dzubnar, but it seems the team valued 48’s special teams contributions too much to cut him. This could prove to be a missed opportunity because Hines proved himself capable of being a core special teams player during the preseason and, unlike Dzubnar, he’s actually capable of making a positive contribution as a utility linebacker in case of injury. Hopefully D’Juan clears waivers and makes his way to the practice squad.

Cornerbacks

Casey Hayward

Trevor Williams

Desmond King

Michael Davis

Craig Mager

Brandon Facyson

The Chargers wisely chose to keep six corners considering the injuries suffered by Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams during camp. As expected, Mager locked down the fifth spot on the depth chart after what may have been his best preseason to date. The surprise here might be that Brandon Facyson made the team considering he was working primarily with the third team defense during the preseason, but my guess is Facyson is a placeholder for a future signing. He’ll likely be headed to the practice squad when the roster is finalized.

Safeties

Derwin James

Jahleel Addae

Rayshawn Jenkins

Adrian Phillips

No real surprises here. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Chargers are in the market for some veteran depth at this position given the relative inexperience behind Jahleel Addae.

Special Teams

Caleb Sturgis

Drew Kaser

Mike Windt

Anthony Lynn hinted the team might keep Sturgis over Roberto Aguayo and that’s how it panned out. I thought Sturgis kicked pretty well and earned the job, but I would have been fine with either. There aren’t any surprises at punter or long snapper.

Like some fans, I’m having a hard time reconciling the direction the team took with Cardale Jones, Steven Richardson and, to a lesser extent, Justin Jackson. Cutting Steven Richardson while keeping Cardale Jones and Justin Jackson seems inconsistent with Anthony Lynn’s reputation for holding players accountable; and the decision to keep Jones, in particular, suggests a lack of objectivity.

That said, I have to keep reminding myself the team is likely to move a few pieces around over the next 24-48 hours. Hopefully that movement will result in the Chargers signing Johnathan Hankins, Antonio Gates and a veteran offensive tackle; and Steven Richardson and D’Juan Hines landing on the practice squad.

Those are my thought on the initial 53-man roster – what did you think?