With training camp and the preseason done for the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s time to give our 53 man roster projections. I’ve decided to split mine into 2 parts: What I would do, and What I think the team will do.
Part 1 is going to be what I would do. It will obviously be much less accurate than what I think the team will do, and is based off of the information I have access too (I’m not in team meetings, the weight room, at practice). I figure it’s a bit more fun to start off this way and we all like playing GM don’t we?
So, without wasting further time, for those of you who didn’t already scroll down to the part you actually care about, here we go.
Offense - 24
Quarterbacks (2) - Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel
Obviously Herbert is making the team, no real further explanation needed there. For the backup job I go with Daniel for some of the obvious reasons. He has experience with Joe Lombardi, he’s been in the league a long time and has embraced that “mentor” role by all accounts I’ve read. To me, there’s no need for a 3rd QB. You want a backup that can give you a chance to win for a couple of weeks if your franchise QB has a short term injury. If the starter goes down to a major injury, you’re having to make some large changes anyway so you’re bringing in a new backup at that point anyway. I think Easton Stick is a relatively safe bet to be able to be stashed on the practice squad and that’s what I’d do with him.
Runningbacks (3) - Austin Ekeler, Larry Rountree, Justin Jackson/Darius Bradwell
Ekeler is in the same position as Herbert, he’s a lock. After him is where things get interesting, and where what I would do likely differs largely from what the team would do. I think Rountree has shown enough on special teams, both as a returner and on coverage, and when he’s been in there on offense to be RB2. He looks decisive, explosive, and high energy. He made the most of what he had to work with as the blocking in front of him was just awful this preseason. For the 3rd spot, the reason I have the two names up there is that if Justin Jackson is healthy enough to return for week 1, it’s him. If he isn’t healthy enough, I keep him on the initial 53 so that he can go on the IR to return list, bringing in Bradwell to take his spot when he goes to the IR. Kelley has not shown me enough in any facet of the game to warrant his spot. With the new practice squad rules I would consider keeping him there but he would likely get snatched up by another team.
Fullbacks (1) - Gabe Nabers
Nabers stays because he is a good special teams player and offers versatility in the run game. I see a lot of arguments for having one of the TE’s like Stephen Anderson fill this role but I’d rather have Nabers.
Tight Ends (4) - Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Stephen Anderson, Tre McKitty
Cook is a lock, and Parham is showing signs of a breakout season. Anderson has made himself too valuable to cut as he looks like probably the most well rounded TE on the roster with his blocking and receiving abilities as well as his contributions on special teams. McKitty makes the roster because he kind of has too. I didn’t really see anything in the preseason that made me think he HAS to make the team, but if I had just spent a 3rd round pick on a guy and taken the kind of criticism Telesco has, you kind of have to put your foot down and say he’s making the team and hopefully something good happens.
Wide Receivers (5) - Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson
In my opinion Allen, Williams, Palmer, and Guyton are locks. So that brings us to the bottom two spots. “T-Billy” is a great deep threat and has worked on his route running to be more of an asset in the short and intermediate range, and he has great chemistry with Herbert, so he makes the cut. If I was going to keep 6, I’d give it to Michael Bandy. Sure he’s tiny, but in last night’s game he looked explosive and tough, he didnt muff any punts, and he isn’t Joe Reed or KJ Hill, who have shown me no reason they should stay.
Offensive Line (9) - Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Bryan Bulaga, Brenden Jaimes, Scott Quessenberry, Storm Norton, Someone off of waivers.
The big move here is ripping the band-aid off and dropping Trey Pipkins. He has not developed at all, and honestly looks like he might even be regressing. He is not an NFL caliber player, even in a backup role. I don’t think the answer for his spot is currently on the roster either, so I’d pick up who I can from the free agent pool after the first set of cuts continues to roll in.
Defense - 25
Defensive Line (6) - Justin Jones, Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Christian Covington, Breiden Fehoko, Forrest Merrill
This one was actually really hard for me. I think Joe Gaziano and Willie Yarbary both played really well and I’d love to find room for them. I would definitely have both of them on the PS if I could. I’m also only really keeping Tillery because I trust Brandon Staley when he says that Tillery has shown so much that he felt comfortable not putting him in in the preseason. Merrill I think showed me a lot as an interior lineman and while he is limited athletically, he’s a load, very tough, very strong, and I want him on my DL. Fehoko can play inside or outside in a lot of formations though it was almost a coin toss between him, Gaziano, and Yarbary.
Edge (5) - Joey Bosa, Kyler Fackrell, Uchenna Nwosu, Chris Rumph II, Emeke Egbule
The first 4 are pretty much a lock here. I decided to keep Egbule as well as I think he showed enough in the preseason on defense that when paired with his contributions on special teams makes him worth keeping.
Inside Linebacker (4) - Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, Kyzir White, Nick Niemann
This group is very good, very fast, but very thin. I don’t think Amen showed enough in the games to earn a spot, but, as you’ll see in the “what I think the team will do” the team likely does based on practice performance. Niemann has shown some great athleticism and instincts, leading the Chargers in tackles in all 3 preseason games, however he also looks a bit light and has been tossed around a bit.
Cornerbacks (6) - Chris Harris Jr, Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr, Tevaughn Campbell, Kemon Hall, John Brannon
Campbell has been getting lots of love from the staff and it showed on the field. He’s definitely got some good skills and great energy out on the field. Kemon Hall also showed a lot this preseason and I’d love to see him make the 53. I also have John Brannon making the team as he lead the team in interceptions in practice and had one in the second preseason game. Corners are always getting banged up so I decided to go with 6 here. I have Brandon Facyson not making the team. I think he has been very inconsistent for a few years, and is not progressing very well. In the final preseason game he was abused by the Seahawks including being embarrassed in the open field multiple times.
Safeties (4) - Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb
Gilman looks like a different player this preseason. He has great energy and attitude out on the field. He’s flying to the ball and making good tackles. I’m encouraged by how he looks after a disappointing year last year. Mark Webb got a ton of looks in the final two preseason games and while there is definitely some things to clean up, you can see flashes of why the team liked him enough to draft him.
Special Teams (3)
K - Tristan Vizcaino, P - Ty Long, LS - Matt Overton
I have Viz winning the kicking competition because I trust him and Michael Badgley about the same, so I give the edge to Viz because of his bigger legs on kickoffs. Ty long is the only P on the roster so he obviously stays. Overton wins because Mazza has an injury and you have to have a LS.
Last man in
I have 52 spots filled above so there’s one spot left. To me this comes down to 3 names. Joe Gaziano, Willie Yarbary, and Michael Bandy. To me, I think Bandy makes the most sense because I feel like Gaziano and Yarbary have a good chance to be able to make it to the practice squad (though so does Bandy), but Bandy would fill a more immediate role of being able to be the team’s punt returner without having to risk Rountree or Adderley.
So there you have it. There is the 53 that I would pick if I was GM of the Chargers. In part 2, I’ll give the 53 that I think the team is more likely to have.