Oh we’re so back!
The Chargers are currently taking the field for their first practice of training camp as I type this. Cutting it close as always, here’s my pre-training camp version of our 53-man roster prediction.
Let’s get into it!
Quarterbacks (3): Justin Herbert, Easton Stick, Max Duggan
The Chargers SHOULDN’T keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but they have kept Easton Stick on the active roster as their third for the past few seasons and I believe they do the same for Max Duggan. It’s not a practical move to build the most efficient active roster but they believe their is a method to this madness.
Running Backs (4): Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Zander Horvath
The Chargers have to hope this position group got a lot better over the offseason.Better health along the offensive line will surely raise their floor but the backs behind Ekeler have to take it upon themselves to raise the standard, as well. I think they keep this group at four, which includes fullback Zander Horvath who should maintain a small role in Kellen Moore’s offense.
Wide Receivers (6): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis
Six players here seems like the right number but there have been murmurings about whether or not Jalen Guyton will make the cut after the team added both Johnston and Davis in this year’s draft. Guyton is still the team’s only proven deep threat and his rapport for Herbert is always worth a couple highlight deep throws throughout the season. If the team believes Johnston can be that type of player, then Guyton may be on the outside looking in.
There’s also a small chance Davis can become a deep threat with his elite speed, but he’s mainly going to be a returner and gadget player as a rookie.
Tight Ends (4): Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Tre’ McKitty, Stone Smartt
This group didn’t change an ounce over the offseason with the idea that Donald Parham being able to stay healthy would change the overall outlook of this group from a middling position room to one with athletic upside. Everett is still a YAC monster and Parham has always been a problem for defenses when near the red zone. Smartt showed the ability to play a small role as an athletic pass-catcher in the short parts of the field and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him earn more playing time this year. McKitty remains a project as both a pass catcher and blocker entering year three.
Offensive Linemen (9): Corey Linsley, Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, Trey Pipkins, Jamaree Salyer, Will Clapp, Jordan McFadden, Foster Sarell, Zack Bailey
Nine players has always felt like the magic number here for offensive lineman. Teams normally do not keep a specific backup on the roster for each position and that usually means keeping a guard that can play either side as a reserve. From there, it’s normal for a backup to be kept at center and one for each side at tackle. Former fifth-rounder Brenden Jaimes could find himself off the active roster due to the surprise progression of Zack Bailey who has been working at guard this offseason.
Interior Defensive Linemen (6): Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, Otito Ogbonnia, Scott Matlock, Nick Williams
The Chargers only play three interior linemen in their base front and since the defense loves to spend time in nickel packages that number goes down to two the majority of the time. Still, after injuries throttled the group a season ago, the staff likely wants to keep some extra bodies to not only rotate, but to make sure they don’t find themselves in a similar situation once again. Veteran Nick Williams was a nice depth signing coming over from the Giants.
Edge Rushers (4): Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Tuli Tuipulotu, Chris Rumph II
Joey Bosa missing 12 games a season ago really dampened the hype and expectations for this group in 2022. Mack did his best to make up for the lost production but the veteran lost a lot of steam down the stretch with just one sack in the team’s final eight games. Tuipulotu will be looked at to be an instant-impact player as the team’s third edge rusher after leading the nation in sacks at USC in 2022. Rumph has continued to fill out his frame into an NFL-ready state but he doesn’t look to be anything but a sub-package player for the Chargers.
Inside Linebackers (5): Eric Kendricks, Kenneth Murray, Daiyan Henley, Nick Niemann, Amen Ogbongbemiga
The Chargers lost Drue Tranquill but added Eric Kendricks and rookie Daiyan Henley. Kendricks and Murray will begin the year as the starters but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Henley earn some starts near the end of the season. Both Niemann and Ogbongbemiga are key special teams contributors and they should each reprise those roles for another year.
Cornerbacks (5): J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, Ja’Sir Taylor, Deane Leonard
A massive bounce-back season for Jackson could create quite the starting three for the Chargers this season. Davis played the best football of his career in the second half of the 2022 season and the last time Samuel was on a football field, he picked off three passes in one half. The potential is there for this group and it will only get better Taylor can hold his own as the team’s slot cornerback in year two.
Safeties (4): Derwin James, Alohi Gilman, JT Woods, Raheem Layne
Former starting free safety Nasir Adderley retired early in the offseason and the Chargers haven’t added any new bodies up to this point. Former Rams safety John Johnson III is still a free agent but nothing as materialized between the two sides, despite Johnson having one of his best seasons under Brandon Staley in 2020. Gilman has steadily gotten better through his first three seasons and this year could be his breakout campaign as he starts alongside James. Woods was a third-round pick a year ago but massive struggles as a tackler kept him from seeing the field almost entirely as a rookie. The team loves his athleticism but won’t trust him on the field if he remains a liability. Layne, a rookie UDFA last year, earned some snaps late in the season and should round out this position room.
Special Teams (3): Cameron Dicker, JK Scott, Josh Harris
In the battle for the starting kicker job, I have the younger Dicker beating out Hopkins for the job by the end of training camp. If the Chargers have a chance to lock in a cheaper player for the long haul, I think they have to take it. Scott and Harris continue to be consistent and reliable presences in the third phase of the game.