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Final 53-man roster prediction

Last one before Saturday’s 4pm ET deadline.

NFL: AUG 31 Chargers Training Camp Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first game of the 2020 NFL season opener is a week away and that is an INSANE thought. With everything else going on in the world, the beginning of the season has truly snuck up on many of us — especially with the absence of preseason. Even as someone who covers the sport for a living, it’s been like that butler from the Adam Sandler classic Mr. Deeds.

The deadline for teams to make final cuts to their rosters is 1 p.m. PT Saturday, Sept. 5. Some teams, like the Bengals, have already started letting go of players, but most will capitalize on every second they can to make sure they’re making the right decisions.

As far as the decisions the Chargers need to make, there’s a few, but nothing terribly pressing.

Like my last few predictions, here’s my final attempt at guessing the final 53 ahead of Saturday’s deadline.

Offense (28)

Position Starter 2nd String 3rd String
Position Starter 2nd String 3rd String
QB Tyrod Taylor Justin Herbert Easton Stick
RB Austin Ekeler Justin Jackson Joshua Kelley
FB Gabe Nabers
WR Keenan Allen K.J. Hill Darius Jennings
TE Hunter Henry Virgil Green Donald Parham
LT Sam Tevi Trey Pipkins
LG Dan Feeney Forrest Lamp
C Mike Pouncey Scott Quessenberry
RG Trai Turner Ryan Groy
RT Bryan Bulaga Storm Norton
WR Mike Williams Jalen Guyton Joe Reed
K Michael Badgley
LS Cole Mazza

There isn’t a ton of debatable decisions on the offensive side of the ball, in my opinion.

I believe they’ll keep three quarterbacks with Tyrod Taylor being the obvious starter. Herbert and Stick have both enjoyed solid camps I think the staff doesn’t want to risk Stick being claimed off of waivers so he’s likely to stick after cuts even as a player who won’t suit up on game days.

The running back trio is as we all expected it to be, as well. Austin Ekeler will play his role as a do-it-all back and the combination of Jackson and Kelley will jockey for position to be the main complementary back in the offense. Right now, Jackson is the guy, but a toe injury has kept him out of practice for most of this week. If he isn’t back on the field with the green light on Monday, Kelley might see a sudden uptick in snaps against the Bengals.

I decided to keep six wide receivers, essentially viewing the group as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, the two rookies, and two more who earn a spot. After the top four, Jalen Guyton and Darius Jennings are the two who have shown the most promise through camp. Both offer speed — Guyton on offense, Jennings as a punt returner — so they each offer something the team missed in 2019.

I chose to keep 10 offensive linemen to cover for potential injuries. If you count Okung’s pulmonary embolism last season, three offensive linemen missed extensive time. One backup at each position just feels like the safest way to go. If they keep nine, Trent Scott would be the first man out. Former XFL tackle Storm Norton has had a great camp and has certainly earned a spot on this team.

The lone undrafted free agent I have making the team is fullback Gabe Nabers out of Florida State. His ability to be an I-Formation lead-blocker on top of running routes as a tight end elevates his value to the coaching staff immensely.

Defense (25)

Position Starter 2nd String 3rd String
Position Starter 2nd String 3rd String
DE Joey Bosa Isaac Rochell
DT Justin Jones Jerry Tillery Cortez Broughton
NT Linval Joseph Damion Square
LEO Melvin Ingram Uchenna Nwosu
WILL Drue Tranquill Nick Vigil
MIKE Kenneth Murray Jr. Denzel Perryman Malik Jefferson
SAM Kyzir White Emeke Egbule
Slot CB Chris Harris Jr. Desmond King
CB Casey Hayward
CB Michael Davis Brandon Facyson
SS Derwin James (IR) Alohi Gilman
FS Rayshawn Jenkins Nasir Adderley
P Ty Long

This is by-far the deepest defensive unit the Chargers have had in some time. The top-six players on the defensive line are made up of three first-rounders, two second-round picks, and third. Uchenna Nwosu is the prime back-up at LEO while Isaac Rochell is the next guy up at either LEO or big end. We also just learned that Jerry Tillery can rotate at end, as well which takes this defense’s versatility to another level.

The linebacker group, specifically, has never been more talented. Kenneth Murray Jr. and Drue Tranquill are going to be an excellent duo in this league and they’ll have plenty of experienced veterans to help accelerate their growth. Guys like Nick Vigil, Emeke Egbule, and Malik Jefferson are going to be some of the team’s most-leaned on special teams players to fill the voids left by Nick Dzubnar and Derek Watt.

Now for the secondary.

The loss of Derwin James is tough. In his stead, Nasir Adderley is going to have a starting job while Desmond King helps with “Derwin duties.” There might even be some snaps for rookie Alohi Gilman, as well. At first, I thought the team would keep an extra defensive back, but they’re truly solid at the position despite the injury. In all, corners plus safeties, I have the Chargers keeping eight players.