Today is cut day, well it’s the next day and a half but “cut day and a half” doesn’t have the same ring to it. A dark time across the NFL for players on roster bubbles, every NFL team has until 4PM Eastern on Saturday to drop from their allowed roster of 90 players down to 53. Assuming each team has the 90 (which they don’t) that’s 1,184 players on the chopping block. And that’s just the first wave. Teams will have earmarked bubble players on other teams they want and if one of them becomes available (and the team is able to sign that player) they’ll have to cut another player from their 53 that survived the initial purge.
So with that in mind, let’s take a final stab at predicting the 53 names that will survive the initial culling of the Los Angeles Chargers roster for 2019.
Offense - 25
Quarterback - 3 - Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones
Rivers is obviously still El Capitan. Tyrod Taylor sticks as one of the best backup QB options in the league. As much as I (and others) have talked about how bad Cardale Jones has been, it does appear that over the last 2 games something has STARTED to click for Cardale. I still wouldn’t trust him against a starting defense, but he played well enough over the last 2 games that combined with the coaching staff/front office’s love for him, he’ll make the roster. On the flip side, 5th round pick Easton Stick showed flashes of something, but played poorly enough in this final preseason game that there’s a chance they could be able to get him on the practice squad.
Running back - 3* - Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope, Melvin Gordon*
Melvin Gordon will remain on the Reserve/Did Not Report list until he either ends his holdout or is traded. He will not count against the 53. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson were always locks to make the list. That brings us to RB3 where the Chargers are actually in a position where they have too many good running backs. The production they got this preseason out of the 4 guys fighting for RB3 was fantastic, especially considering how terrible the offensive line depth is. Troymaine Pope makes the list here over Detrez Newsome. Newsome is a great back, but Pope beat him this preseason. Pope had 20 carries for 93 yards (4.65 ypc) while Newsome took his 16 carries for 56 yards (3.5 ypc) and a TD. Both players did a good job catching the ball out of the backfield. The big kicker here is Pope’s ability as a returner. With head coach Anthony Lynn saying that Austin Ekeler’s increased role in the offense will keep him off special teams, Pope’s 4 kick returns for 82 yards (20.5 average) and 3 punt returns for 100 yards, including an 81 yard return for a TD, gives the team a reliable option there. Newsome is still practice squad eligible so the team can hopefully hold onto him there.
Fullback - 1 - Derek Watt
Tight End - 3 - Hunter Henry, Sean Culkin, Virgil Green
The Chargers are very thankful to have Hunter Henry back. Sean Culkin has continued to improve every year and looks like he’s really become a good option for the Chargers at TE both as a pass catcher and a blocker. Virgil Green will take over the role of crusty old veteran of the TE group as it looks like the Chargers’ TE group will not include Antonio Gates for the first time in 387 years.
Offensive Tackle - 4* - Sam Tevi, Trent Scott, Trey Pipkins, Russell Okung**/Outside Tackle
Lets start with the asterisks here. We finally got an update on Russell Okung and it wasn’t good news. The team has said he will not be ready for week 1, but then followed that up with saying the won’t have another update for a few weeks. So there are a couple options here with Okung. If it really is only going to be a “couple of weeks” they could take him off the NFI list now and keep him on the active roster, essentially wasting a spot for a few weeks until he is back. If it’s a longer term issue, they would transition him from the Active/NFI list (where he is now), to the regular season Reserve/NFI list. It is essentially treated the same as the PUP as far as the roster goes, so if he moves to the Reserve/NFI list he would not count against the 53, but he would have to remain on the list until week 6, then the team would have from week 6 to week 9 to activate him, place him on the IR, or release him. If he goes on the Reserve/NFI list, they have to bring in an outside tackle. The group of Tevi/Scott/Pipkins looked shaky at best this preseason and they cannot go into the season with those 3 being the plan for the first half of the season. Plus, none of the names after those 3 on the 90 man roster showed anything that warrants being on the 53 man roster. Pray for a surprise veteran cut/cap casualty or a trade.
Guard - 3 - Dan Feeney, Michael Schofield, Forrest Lamp
This group has pretty much been a lock to be the guards for the entire offseason. Feeney can play G or C. Schofield can play G or T. Lamp could theoretically play G or T, but at very least could play either LG or RG. The only question here is if Lamp did enough to leapfrog Feeney or Schofield for a starting spot.
Center - 2 - Mike Pouncey, Scott Quessenberry
Pouncey is the best lineman on the roster. Period. Quessenberry didn’t look awful this preseason and can play G or C, so he’ll stick around.
Wide Receiver - 6 - Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Geremy Davis, Artavis Scott
KA and Mike Dub were always locks. Travis Benjamin was probably also a lock here considering how he played down the stretch last season. The team brought back Inman who is a very solid WR3/4 option and is very familiar with Rivers. Geremy Davis is an ok option as a WR5, nothing flashy but he’s familiar with the system and gets the job done. Scott has been hyped the last 2 offseasons by the Chargers and really showed up this preseason. He had the 5th most receiving yards in the entire league this preseason, racking up 188 yards on 12 receptions (15.7 ypc), 8 of those receptions earning 1st downs. Andre Patton gave Scott a good run though, hauling in 6 passes for 86 yards (14.3 ypc) for 2 TDs and 5 1st downs. Hopefully Patton slides through to the practice squad because of his abilities, progression, and great size at 6’4 205.
Defense - 24
Defensive Tackle - 4 - Brandon Mebane, Justin Jones, Jerry Tillery, Cortez Broughton
Mebane comes back to lead the “big uglies” in the middle. Justin Jones has been hyped all offseason as a guy that has progressed leaps and bounds from last year after overhauling his diet and incorporating boxing into his training regimen. Jerry Tillery was the team’s 1st round pick this year and showed some very encouraging flashes in his limited preseason action. I have 7th round pick Cortex Broughton beating out Damion Square for the last DT spot here. The team has Broughton listed as a DT, while Square is listed specifically as a NT, so read into that what you will, but they are the exact same size at 6’2 293, and Broughton is 22 while Square is 30. Cutting Square also frees up $1.5M in cap space, which they might need every penny of if they have to bring in an outside OT and whatever happens with Melvin Gordon’s situation. T.Y. McGill is also interesting here since he can also play either DT or NT and lead the interior defensive line in both tackles and QB hits this preseason.
Defensive End - 4 - Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Isaac Rochelle, Anthony Lanier III
Bosa and Ingram, the Supa Sack Bros, aren’t going anywhere. Isaac Rochelle continues to improve entering his 3rd year and looked very good this preseason, showing some improved play in the run game and active hands pass rushing. Lanier was a stud this preseason stacking up 14 tackles, a few TFLs, constant pressure on the QB and a pass defended. He moves insanely well for someone who’s listed at 6’6 285. He’s fun.
Linebacker - 7 - Thomas Davis, Kyzir White, Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman, Drue Tranquill, Emeke Egbule, Uchenna Nwosu
What a difference a year makes at the LB spot. Last year LB was definitely the weak spot on this defense. This year, it’s definitely shaping up to be a strength. Thomas Davis brings veteran leadership and talent to the LB corps. Kyzir White is back from injury and looks big and fast out there. Jatavis is also back from injury and is hoping to rebound. Denzel Perryman is back from injury and is a welcome sight. Uchenna Nwosu could probably be listed at DE since he’ll mostly be used up at the line of scrimmage, but he’s athletic enough to move around. Drue Tranquill was outstanding this preseason. He showed great speed, range, tackling power, and instincts on his way to 22 tackles (tied for 9th most in the NFL), while also defending 2 passes, bringing down an interception, and forcing a fumble. He also looked great on special teams coming close to blocking a couple of punts. He needs to see the field early and often. Egbule looks like an upgrade over Nick Dzubnar on defense and is versatile enough to play outside or inside. He’s also athletic enough to be a weapon on special teams. I know the team loves Dzubnar but like Damion Square, cutting him frees up $1.5M in cap space, and $2M is a lot to pay a guy who only provides value in the form of special teams tackles.
Cornerback - 4 - Casey Hayward, Michael Davis, Desmond King, Brandon Facyson
Casey Hayward, while regressing a bit last year, is still a great corner and firmly CB1 for the Chargers. Michael Davis is still CB2. Desmond King is one of the best players on defense and can play basically any DB position on the field. Facyson has continued to look good and nobody behind him did anything special to pass him up. A name missing here is Trevor Williams. He’s had another lingering injury and based on Anthony Lynn’s tone whenever he’s asked about Williams, he’s obviously frustrated. Another thing that doesn’t encourage the team to be patient with Trevor Williams is the fact that his entire $2.025M would be freed up if he’s released.
Safety - 5* - Rayshawn Jenkins, Adrian Phillips, Nassir Adderley, Derwin James***, Adarius Pickett, Jaylen Watkins
Jenkins has been the team’s starting FS all preseason as Nassir Adderley has been dealing with a hamstring injury. However, Adderley got into his first preseason action in the 2nd half of the final game and did not disappoint. It was against the bottom of the 49ers roster, but Adderley was all over the field. He showed absolutely fantastic center field abilities with his range, closing speed, instincts, and jumping abilities. He defended 3 passes, pulled down an interception and came close to 2 others. He’ll very quickly take over at FS. Jaylen Watkins is back from injury and had a tackle and an interception on defense, as well as 2 more tackles on special teams. The staff really likes him and he can also play CB in a pinch. Adrian Phillips is the do it all piece on the defense with Derwin James heading for the IR. He is one of the smartest players on the defense and is a great player to play at SS/FS/LB/Slot CB/DE/Whatever. Speaking of Derwin, the team has to have him on the 53 man roster for 24 hours before they can place him on IR, so he’ll take up an active spot initially. Which means the staff is going to have a very rough decision between rookie safeties Roderic Teamer and Adarius Pickett. Teamer looked good as a safety with multiple tackles and a half sack and was a demon on special teams, leading the team in special teams tackles this preseason with 4. Meanwhile Pickett was a stud at safety, amassing 17 tackles (tied for 2nd most on the team) with 2 passes defended, an interception, and a fumble recovery. 2 of Pickett’s tackles were on special teams as well and I think he showed enough on defense to be worth the spot over Teamer. Teamer would definitely be a lock for the practice squad, assuming he doesn’t get snatched up by another team.
Special Teams - 3
Michael Badgley - K, Ty Long - P, Cole Mazza - LS
Badgley was one hell of a find last year to finally solve the kicking woes and hasn’t skipped a beat this preseason either. Ty Long comes in as the new punter. He punted better than Tyler Newsome this preseason and has the added value of having experience with both kickoffs and place kicks. He also didn’t mess up any holds so he gets the gig. Cole Mazza has taken over as the Long Snapper replacing 9 year veteran Mike Windt. He’s younger, cheaper, and didn’t mess up. I guess that’s all you can ask for.
1 spot remaining.
For those of you that can add and are still reading at this point 2254 words in, that’s only 52 spots. When filling out the 53 I hit a weird spot to finish filling it out. There are a few directions the team could go here that make sense.
Extra LB - If the team really does see Nwosu as more of a DE, keeping an extra LB like Kyle Wilson makes a lot of sense.
Extra DB - The team might want to keep an extra DB. CB Jeff Richards, while not very good in coverage, is a great tackler and good on special teams. CB Kemon Hall also racked up a ton of tackles at CB this preseason. At Safety the team might be inclined to find room for Teamer, at least until Derwin returns.
Extra DL - I mentioned Square and McGill as bubble guys that it might make sense to keep around, especially McGill. There’s also UDFA Chris Peace who has fantastic speed off the edge and had multiple sacks and TFLs this preseason.
This group of 10 almost always include some outside names but Ill throw out the 10 internal names that didn’t make the 53 that I hope the team can keep.
Easton Stick QB, Chris Peace DE, Roderic Teamer DB, Andre Patton WR, Justice Liggins WR, Detrez Newsome RB, Dee Liner NT, Patrick Afriyie DE, Matt Sokol TE, Elijah Zeise DE/LB