clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Post-preseason Chargers 53-man roster projection

UDFAs Elijah Dotson and Jerrod Clark played well this preseason, but was it enough to crack the final 53?

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

The Chargers concluded the 2023 preseason with a 23-12 win over the 49ers in Santa Clara on Friday night. With final cuts due by this coming Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. PST, it’s time we throw out our final 53-man roster prediction.


Quarterback (2): Justin Herbert, Easton Stick

Max Duggan did his best to put on a show in the second half against the 49ers as he finished with 15 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and 51 rushing yards, good for second on the team. Unfortunately, the Chargers aren’t solid enough across the rest of the roster to warrant keeping a third quarterback on the active roster. In years past, the team believed Easton Stick wouldn’t make it long on their practice squad which prompted them to always keep him on the active roster. I don’t think that will be the case with Duggan.

Running Back (4): Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Zander Horvath

UDFA Elijah Dotson had another good outing on Friday night against the 49ers as he finished with 33 yards rushing and a lone reception for nine yards. I believe the coaching staff loves Dotson and want him to stick around in the end, so I fully expect him to land on the practice squad.

Kelley likely secured the RB2 job outright with his 75-yard touchdown scamper. Isaiah Spiller hasn’t found nearly as much room to run this offseason, but we should still keep in mind his 71-yard touchdown run against the Rams that was negated by penalty. Overall, this seems like a solid 1-2-3 for the Chargers along with Horvath who also plays a key role on special teams.

Wide Receiver (6): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, Keelan Doss

Doss caught three balls against the Niners to push his preseason totals to nine receptions and 93 yards receiving. Both numbers paced the Chargers through the month of August and likely won him the final spot in the receiver room.

If rookie Derius Davis had higher expectations to be a part of the offense as opposed to just the team’s starting return man in year one, I’d say the Chargers are fine with five bodies in the room. But after the injuries they faced in 2022, four capable receivers doesn’t sound as safe as five. Jalen Guyton also remains on the PUP list and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll return to the field before week one at the rate things have been progressing.

Tight End (4): Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Tre’ McKitty, Stone Smartt

The Chargers like all of their tight ends and I don’t see a world where they don’t keep all four. McKitty did not show much in the way of improvement this offseason but he’s a cheap third tight end they can utilize in two-tight end sets as an additional blocker. Smartt was certainly the better receiver option at the position but his slender build (227) isn’t ideal for the heavy sets the Chargers want to trot out occasionally. Due to this, the Chargers have to keep all four to keep the room well-rounded.

Offensive Line (9): Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Jamaree Salyer, Trey Pipkins, Foster Sarell, Zack Bailey, Jordan McFadden, Will Clapp

Bailey was arguably the Chargers’ best offensive lineman to play in the preseason. After playing mainly tackle thus far in his career, he switched to right guard which has looked like a much more natural position for the former UDFA. Prior to the 49ers game, Bailey was the team’s highest-graded lineman by Pro Football Focus by a wide margin. Just from the eye test, he had another strong game with several key blocks to pop the run game.

As for the remaining three backups, Clapp is the incumbent as the backup center, Sarell looks to retain his swing tackle role, and fifth-round rookie Jordan McFadden has some inside-outside versatility that will allow the Chargers to keep just one backup tackle in Sarell.

Interior Defensive Linemen (6): Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, Scott Matlock, Christopher Hinton, Nick Williams

Second-year tackle Otitio Ogbonnia remains on the PUP list and isn’t likely to come off before week one. With that in mind, I have Hinton making the roster over David Moa after a stronger performance this preseason that included more pressures and total tackles from the interior. UDFA Jerrod Clark also had a strong preseason, but the Bolts seem to like the versatility of the older players over Clark’s true nose tackle skillset.

Matlock has flashed in all three games and was never in much danger of missing the cut as a late-round draft pick.

Edge Rushers (4): Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Tuli Tuipulotu, Chris Rumph II

The selection of Tuipulotu in the third round helped raise the floor of this group after the loss of Kyle Van Noy. The FBS’ sack leader in 2022 has been hailed as a true student of the game since joining the team and his production in limited snaps this month have been excellent. Rumph’s progression has continued into year three and this could be a career-year for the former fourth-round pick.

Four bodies seems shallow here, but I fully expect the team to keep upwards of three edge rushers on the practice this year. Carlo Kemp had a strong preseason and UDFA Andrew Farmer showed enough potential to warrant developing.

Linebackers (5): Eric Kendricks, Kenneth Murray, Daiyan Henley, Nick Niemann, Amen Ogbongbemiga

Niemann and Ogbongbemiga will both make the roster as key special teams contributors. Even in year three, Niemann still seems to lack enough mass to be a factor as a run stopper, but his elite athleticism will continue helping him on kick coverages. Ogbongbemiga is in a slightly different boat but the destination remains the same. He’s more of a traditional inside thumper lacking rangy athleticism but his ability on special teams will keep him around.

Daiyan Henley posted nine tackles and half a sack against the Saints before grabbing his first NFL interception against the 49ers. His athleticism is evident and you can already see how comfortable he’s gotten playing at the pro level. He’s going to be a fan favorite on and off the field.

Cornerbacks (5): J.C. Jackson, Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr., Ja’Sir Taylor, Deane Leonard

This room was never in much danger of change this offseason after the team chose not to use one of their draft picks on the position. They did bring in a number of UDFA corners, some of which played well in the preseason, but this looks to be the expected group to begin 2023.

This group could look a lot better, or even a lot worse, depending on how well Jackson is able to rebound from an underwhelming 2022 campaign that ended in a severe knee injury.

Safeties (5): Derwin James, Alohi Gilman, JT Woods, Raheem Layne, Mark Webb

Gilman remains the guy expected to start opposite James on the back end. Woods has looked much improved through his three preseason games and while there are still lapses in play, his ability to track defenders and break on the ball has all looked ideal. Both Layne and Webb have been steady on defense and each are expected to play major roles on special teams.

Special Teams (3): Cameron Dicker, JK Scott, Josh Harris

Dustin Hopkins finally returned to practice this past week and was the “starting” kicker for the Chargers against the 49ers. He made his lone field goal and kicked both extra points on the night. Dicker made both field goals attempts, as well.

At this point, as accomplished as a kicker Hopkins is, it simply seems like the right move to invest in a young kicker who has shown little to no signs of inconsistency and feel safe at the position for the next decade.

Scott and Harris had zero competition this offseason and will be the guy at their respective positions.