Here we are. The preseason is over for the Los Angeles Chargers and now we are a few days away from the (first) final 53. This year is a bit different than the last few years in that there isn’t a big name player outside of maybe JC Jackson that the Chargers would normally need to carry on the roster for a day before moving them to one of the injured lists, but that likely won’t even be necessary with JC based on the timelines the team has put out.
So, what will that 53 look like? Here’s my official attempt at predicting the 53. Tomorrow I’ll be posting what I would do if I had the power to set the Chargers roster, but I figured I’d switch it up this year and do my official prediction first.
Offense - 26
Quarterback (3): Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
Even though I strongly disagree with keeping 3, until I’m proven wrong I think the team “Stick”s to their guns and keeps all 3 QBs. They’ve been setting this up all offseason with talk about how they believe the whole room of QB coaches and assistants and both Stick and Daniel in the room help Herbert and I just don’t see them backing off of that. I wish they would, but I think this is what happens.
Running back (4): Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree
Here’s another position already that I disagree with what will happen but I think it’s what the team will do. I think they keep 4. With Spiller getting that ankle tweak, and neither Kelley or Spiller really looking spectacular (though I will say Kelley looks much improved), combined with wanting it to play it safe with Ekeler’s usage, I think they talk themselves into keeping 4.
Fullback (1): Zander Horvath
I think 7th round pick Zander Horvath makes the team. According to Daniel Popper of the Athletic, Horvath has been practicing with the 1s both on offense and various special teams units and in his opinion has won the job. Based on the preseason games I don’t see anything to really separate either guy so I’ll go off of what Popper and others have witnessed in practice. Looks like Justin Herbert may have to find a new roommate with Gabe Nabers not making the cut.
Tight End (4): Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Tre McKitty, Hunter Kampmoyer
With Parham being banged up and a history of being hurt, the team is going to “play it safe” and keep 4 TEs. This prediction is starting out rough as I’m basically disagreeing with the bottom end of every position group so far but based on past behavior and statements by GM Tom Telesco and Coach Brandon Staley, I think they keep 4 to start. Possibly bringing in a free agent released from another team to swap out with Kamp.
Offensive Tackle (3): Rashawn Slater, Trey Pipkins, Storm Norton
I think Slater and Pipkins are the starters and they keep Norton as a swing guy. They have enough versatility some of their guards that can play outside in a pinch that this is one of those positions where the team carries the minimum to make up for carrying an extra QB/RB/TE.
Offensive Guard (4): Matt Feiler, Zion Johnson, Jamaree Salyer, Brenden Jaimes
As I mentioned under tackles, Feiler has tackle experience as well as guard, Jaimes is listed as “G/T” on the team’s website, and Salyer played OT in college while he has played only OG in games for the Chargers this preseason. This is a solid group. Salyer has been surprisingly solid, Feiler and Johnson are a great pair at OG, and Jaimes, while being disappointing this preseason, flashed a few times last year.
Center (2): Corey Linsley, Will Clapp (for now)
Will Clapp as the backup center is another position, like the TE 4 spot, that I think could be kept initially as part of the “first” final 53, but possibly replaced with someone cut from another team. Clapp may be someone worth spending a bit more time on from the practice squad, but he was extremely ineffective in the preseason and I would not want him filling in for any real amount of time if something were to happen to Linsley.
Wide Receiver (5): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Jaylen Guyton, DeAndre Carter
This is maybe the most painful. Because of keeping the extra QB/RB/TE, Michael Bandy probably doesn’t make this team and goes on to be a stud for the Chiefs or Patriots. Overall, this is a very solid group. Palmer looks to have taken another step which means the Chargers top 3 WRs are all low end WR1/high end WR2 type guys. Guyton’s deep catch in the final preseason game is the whole reason they keep him around, and Carter reportedly lit up practice through all of camp and is the best returner on the team.
Defense - 23
Defensive Tackle (5): Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Jerry Tillery, Otito Ogbonnia, Morgan Fox
Tillery is apparently going to make the team. Despite continuing to not show much, if any, improvement in game appearances this preseason, he did not have a single snap in the final preseason game, likely signaling that the team had already made a decision on him, and I doubt that decision is to cut him. Morgan Fox has been impressive in the limited time he got in games and overall this group is a night and day transformation over last year and should provide a lot of improvement vs the run. Breiden Fehoko, Joe Gaziano, and Andrew Brown I would think are both going to be guys they hope they can add to the practice squad.
Edge (3): Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Chris Rumph II
Like offensive tackle, here is another place they try and skate by with the minimum. They have a few guys that will be listed under LB that can fill in Edge duties, as well as guys like Morgan Fox and Tillery that can play edge in heavier packages. This is a small group but definitely the most densely talented on the roster. If they keep a 4th, Carlo Kemp flashed the most and I think might have an edge on Emeke Egbule.
Linebacker (5): Kyle Van Noy, Drue Tranquill, Kenneth Murray, Troy Reader, Amen Ogbongbemiga
This group might be the hardest to predict so far as I can’t quite predict whether the team keeps 5 or 6 here AND the race between Amen, Nick Niemann, and Damon Lloyd in the actual games looked pretty close. Murray had some time on the edge last year and Van Noy can definitely do that job as well. I think this is a solid group, but probably weakest overall across the team.
Cornerback (5): JC Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr, Michael Davis, Bryce Callahan, Ja’Sir Taylor
This group is much improved over last year and I don’t they they even consider keeping 6, even with JC being hurt to start the season. With the versatility of their Safety group, they are fine with this group of 5. Samuel Jr and Callahan both have inside/outside versatility and Michael Davis looks like he’s improved this year back to the flashes we saw in 2020.
Safety (5): Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb Jr., JT Woods
Derwin back fully healthy and Adderley having another year of development is huge for the starting lineup. The 3 guys behind them though are all a pretty big drop off, which is concerning because the third safety on this roster will see the field a lot with how often they move James around. Gillman is an adequate backup but nothing special, we still don’t know what we have in Mark Webb but the team seems to really like him, and JT Woods is still raw and can’t tackle. This might be another group that they target with a free agent.
Special Teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, JK Scott, Josh Harris
This has been pretty set for a while now. I don’t think there will be any surprises here.
Last Man In
As you may have noticed, 26+23+3 = 52. So there is one spot left on the roster.
I think this comes down to one of 4 players. Carlo Kemp, Breiden Fehoko, Deane Leonard, and Michael Bandy.
Personally I’d keep Bandy in this situation, though really I would likely keep all of them with changes to some of the other positions, but like I said, we can get into that tomorrow.
I think however, they probably keep Leonard as that last guy. They just spent a draft pick on him, he’s listed as a “DB” being a guy they believe can play CB or S, and with Mark Webb and JC Jackson being banged up, the DB group would be the most needy of an extra body at the moment.
And there we have it. That’s my prediction for what I think the Chargers will actually do for their 53 man roster. Check back tomorrow for what I would do if I was making the call, and keep checking in with us as the cuts start getting made to find out what happens.