Welcome to the 35th Chargers roster prediction article you have read just this week. Here is an updated look at how the final 53 may have changed after a little over a week of practice:
Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel (2)
The first two are no surprise, and to be honest not seeing Easton Stick on the final roster should not come as a surprise either. The Chargers do not have the luxury of keeping a third quarterback on the roster when a number of other positions require an extra body.
Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley (3)
What? The Chargers would never cut a rookie sixth-round pick the same year they drafted him would they? Try Marion Grice, the sixth-round pick in 2014 Tom Telesco drafted and cut in the same offseason.
If I have to make the Stick cut because the Chargers do not have the luxury of keeping three quarterbacks then I have to make the same cut with a fourth running back. There are more important positions to fill out.
So why Joshua Kelley and not Larry Rountree? As of right now, Kelley is the one getting the most carries as RB3 behind the clear frontrunners of Austin Ekeler at RB1 and Justin Jackson at RB2. He is also the one starting on special teams, holding the same role he held last season (for better or worse). Rountree has actually been in more of a rotation with Darius Bradwell than Kelley as far as I can tell.
The preseason games will sort out the winner, but it is currently Kelley in the lead with the RB3 spot.
Fullback: Gabe Nabers (1)
He has no competition as a true fullback, and it is very cool to see him lined up out wide as a receiver on occasion. This is his job.
Tight End: Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre’ McKitty, Stephen Anderson (4)
For me, Stephen Anderson was a bit 50/50 to make the roster prior to training camp. Having watched a number of practices I am confident he is going to find a spot on this team.
Anderson as a fourth tight end is not a whole lot more valuable than a fourth running back; however, he is going to be much more than that this season. Anderson has been lining up as a fullback/H-back type in the backfield on multiple occasions, a role he hinted at in our interview when he said he was working more on his blocking this offseason. The quote likely referred to his role as an in-line blocking tight end, but seeing him out there in the backfield suggests it could be more. He is also starting on special teams, a role he is unlikely to give up to anyone.
Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Austin Proehl (6)
In a surprise twist neither Joe Reed nor KJ Hill make the final roster, though if either were to hang on with the practice squad it would be Hill. Reed has been phased out of the special teams unit altogether and is not fielding kicks, a surprise no one saw coming. Without any gadget plays installed in the offense Reed has not had the opportunity to shine as a Deebo Samuel-like player.
The tough decision comes down to Austin Proehl or Hill, the latter being a draft pick of Telesco’s just last season. However, as is the theme of the article, we have to listen to what the coaches are showing us on the field. Proehl has been first-team kick and punt returner since Day 1 and has been a consistent target for the second-team unit. In the first padded practice the Chargers made it a point to target Proehl on a quick pass twice, allowing him to work in space and pick up yards after the catch. This was his trait of interest coming into camp and it is clear from his work on special teams and his utilization on offense they believe he is an open field quick pass weapon. Hill is very close but has played second fiddle to Proehl all camp.
Offensive Line: Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Bryan Bulaga, Trey Pipkins, Brenden Jaimes, Scott Quessenberry, Tyree St. Louis (9)
The Chargers kept 10 offensive linemen last year and I believe they could do the same this year. The debate comes down to keeping one, both, or neither of Storm Norton and Tyree St. Louis. St. Louis has some guard/tackle flexibility, which is just enough to push off Norton. Honestly, this is like picking between which big toe I would like to slam into a wall.
EDGE: Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyler Fackrell, Chris Rumph, Emeke Egbule (5)
Emeke Egbule missing the cut would not be a surprise, but I do not see how a team could head into a season with just four edge rushers. Joey Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu could get hurt at any moment and leave the team far too barren at edge with a journeyman outside linebacker and a fourth-round rookie who is still trying to put on some weight.
Interior Defensive Line: Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Breiden Fehoko, Christian Covington (5)
Considering Christian Covington is a veteran free agent specifically brought in by the team I do believe he had the inside track to make it all along. Having seen him stunt with Nwosu it appears as if the coaching staff will use him as a versatile pass-rushing piece in this defense. The final spot came down to Breiden Fehoko or Cortez Broughton, both of which have had good camps so far. However, Fehoko does project to be more of the zero technique if Joseph goes down and fits where the other speedier defensive tackles do not. Fehoko has also been a beast during camp, notching multiple sacks and pressures through one week. This is not a spectacular group, but they are solid.
Linebacker: Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, Kyzir White, Nick Niemann, Cole Christiansen (5)
Though Amen Ogbongbemiga has been an UDFA favorite to make the roster for some time it appears as if second-year linebacker Cole Christiansen has the lead right now. Christiansen has been seen working with each starting special teams unit.
Corner: Michael Davis, Chris Harris Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., Brandon Facyson, Ryan Smith, Tevaughn Campbell (6)
The first five are a safe bet to make the roster. It is possible Tevaughn Campbell is cut, but it is worth noting his consistent reps with the second team and even some first-team reps today while Asante Samuel Jr. took a breather. I do not feel strongly he will make the roster, but he does have some starting experience and was serviceable in moments last season. Ryan Smith hobbling off the field Monday is both concerning and another reason to keep Campbell around.
Safety: Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb (4)
As much as it pains me to keep Ben DeLuca off the list I do believe a practice squad start is in his future, at least after one week. Alohi Gilman and Mark Webb have been the second safety duo behind the starters and are clearly making this roster. Webb in particular was outstanding in coverage on the first day of pads.
Special Teams: Tristan Vizcaino, Ty Long, Cole Mazza (3)
Tristan Vizcaino has a leg on him, even kicking balls over the net in warm-ups today. During practice he was perfect on all of his field goals to close the period. However, this competition is very close and Michael Badgley should not be ruled out. Badgley was also perfect on the day and hit every kick from over 50 yards. The battle may come down to a stronger kickoff leg vs NFL experience leg.