What to Expect for the Active Roster?

I listened to this Guily as Charged podcast today. They made some comments I disagree with about the active roster, so I wanted to discuss.

48 Active Roster Spots

First off, Steven stated that there are 47 active roster spots on gameday, which is not fully correct. From Inside new NFL roster rules for 2020: Expanded rosters, practice squad and injured reserve:

New CBA rule: Starting this season, game-day active rosters, which used to be limited to 46 players per team, can include up to 48 players, provided that at least eight of those 48 are offensive linemen. (If not, the game-day roster size is limited to 47 players.)

I don't see why any team would not choose to have 48 active roster spots with 8 OL rather than 47 with 7 OL for any given game, unless they simply cannot muster enough OL bodies for some reason.

I assume the Chargers will have 48 active in every game, calling up 1-2 practice squad players as needed to get to that number. I certainly hope they don't have any weeks where they are driven to have fewer than 48 active players because they have more than 7 injured players not on IR.

Ideal Active Roster

Ignoring injuries, I think these are your ideal 48 active roster spots:

  1. QB Herbert
  2. QB Daniel
  3. RB Ekeler
  4. RB Michel
  5. RB Spiller
  6. FB Horvath
  7. WR Allen
  8. WR Williams
  9. WR Palmer
  10. WR Guyton
  11. WR/KR/PR Carter
  12. TE Everett
  13. TE Parham
  14. TE McKitty
  15. LT Slater
  16. LG Feiler
  17. C Linsley
  18. RG Johnson
  19. RT Pipkins
  20. OT Norton
  21. OG Salyer
  22. C Clapp
  23. IDL Johnson
  24. IDL Joseph-Day
  25. IDL Fox
  26. IDL Fehoko
  27. IDL Tillery
  28. Edge Bosa
  29. Edge Mack
  30. Edge Rumph
  31. ILB/Edge Van Noy
  32. ILB Tranquill
  33. ILB Murray
  34. ILB Reeder
  35. ILB Niemann
  36. ILB Ogbongbemiga
  37. CB Jackson
  38. CB Samuel
  39. CB Davis
  40. CB Callahan
  41. CB Taylor
  42. S James
  43. S Adderley
  44. S Gilman
  45. S Woods
  46. PK Hopkins
  47. P Scott
  48. LS Harris

Ideal Inactive Roster

That ideal active list implies these would be the 5 inactive players based on today's 53 man roster:

  1. QB Stick
  2. RB Kelley - but could be swapped with Spiller (see below)
  3. OL Jaimes
  4. IDL Ogbonnia
  5. CB Leonard

I don't think there is much controversy here, at least to open the season. Let's talk about where the GAC guys differed.


Tyler said the team cannot afford to have a RB inactive, at least right now. I disagree.

Per PFF, the Chargers had these RB/FB snaps on offense last season:

  • RB Ekeler - 731
  • RB Jackson - 230
  • RB Kelley - 139
  • RB Rountree - 107
  • FB Nabers - 47
  • RB Bradwell - 7
  • Total - 1,261 (1,214 for RBs)

Also note that Michel had 627 snaps last season.

So Ekeler played ~60% of the RB snaps last season. We have all heard Ekeler and the coaches and Telesco talk about upgrading RB2 to give Ekeler some relief, but how many fewer snaps do we really expect Ekeler to play? 50-60% actually seems about right to me.

This year, the Chargers have indeed upgraded their RB2, which is how I see Michel unless Spiller breaks out and takes the job away over the course of the season. Michel is a veteran who has played on two Super Bowl champions. He has proven he can be a durable, workhorse runner who doesn't fumble. He is the best pass blocker in the Chargers RB/FB group. I fully expect he will get the second most snaps, and likely more than Jackson got last season.

Kelley looks better this year. So he could probably handle more carries if needed.

Horvath looks like an upgrade over Nabers, and he actually carried the ball 268 times in college for 1,181 yards (4.4 ypc) and caught 68 passes for 592 yards (8.7 ypr), scoring 9 TDs on those touches. He should be able to actually contribute on offense if needed more than we saw from Nabers. So he effectively provides a bit of insurance for keeping only 3 RBs active.

And, like I pointed out in my other recent fan post, the Chargers had a RB inactive in 14 games last season.

When the inactive group beyond Stick and the 9th OL is not driven exclusively by injuries, I think the Chargers will have either Kelley or Spiller inactive. Presumably that means Kelley most of the time, but it's possible it could be Spiller until he earns his way onto the active roster, especially coming off an ankle injury.


Steven commented that keeping 6 ILBs active could force the team to have just 5 IDL players active, as if that would preclude keeping 6 ILBs active. But the Chargers only had 5 IDL players active in 14 of 17 games last season, and two of the games with 6 active IDL players were weeks 16-17, a timeframe when the Chargers had a COVID outbreak that impacted roster decisions.

I think it is fairly obvious that the team will want 5 active IDL players unless injuries at other positions make it better to have 6 just to have another quality healthy body active. This also seems reasonable since IDL players don't play a lot special teams snaps relative to LBs and DBs.

I suggested Ogbonnia as the inactive above, since he is a rookie and didn't really show a lot in camp/preseason. However, I could see Tillery's name showing up here if he disappoints.

I have also seen it suggested that Covington would be activated often on gamedays. The numbers game outlined here makes that seem unlikely unless driven specifically by injuries within the IDL group.


All of the GAC guys seemed to dismiss the idea of keeping 6 ILBs active. But Van Noy is a hybrid player, and 4 of the other 5 ILBs are expected to be core special teams players - Niemann, Ogbongbemiga, Reeder, and Tranquill.

I have seen it mentioned multiple times that the team prefers defensive players on special teams since they theoretically know how to tackle better than offensive players. Keeping all of these ILBs active supports that notion.


I am lumping all of the DBs together here. I did not notice that the GAC guys commented on these groups as having inactives, but I think as long as the Chargers carry 10 DBs, they will have at least 1 inactive. Last season, they had DBs inactive a total of 26 times in 17 games, including at least 1 in every game.

They kept 6 CBs. I think they will have 5 active on gamedays. If Jackson is healthy, that inactive will be Leonard as things stand with the roster today. Leonard should only be active if one of the 5 guys above him on the depth chart gets hurt.

I also think if Jackson and Webb both get healthy, Webb could be promoted to the active roster in place of Leonard, which could then open up the DB group to different inactives, like Gilman, Woods, or Webb.


This looks pretty straightforward to me right now, with the active roster basically healthy. I hope it stays that way!


This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.