Predicting The Chargers 53-Man Roster After The First Week Of Training Camp

Tyron Johnson catches a touchdown in training camp!

Predicting The Chargers 53-Man Roster After The First Week Of Training Camp

The Los Angeles Chargers have begun training camp for the 2021 season. 

They will have several tough decisions to make, as offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi pointed out on Thursday when discussing the running back and wide receiver groups. For now, everyone is healthy, which means there is no better time to update my 53-man roster predictions, than at this very moment.

Let’s get started.


Justin Herbert and Chase Daniel (2)

The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year headlines this group and the team as a whole will go as far as Herbert takes them. The team is saying the right things in terms of there being a battle for the backup spot, but the job is Daniel’s to lose. Easton Stick is more physically gifted, but it is blatantly obvious in practice that Daniel has a much firmer grasp on the mental side of things on and off the field. His experience with Lombardi and the Saints’ offense gives him a massive edge. Until we see Stick be successful in the preseason games, he is a cut candidate. 

*Note: The Chargers did sign former Mississippi State and Stanford quarterback KJ Costello today. He’s likely a camp body and potential practice squad player at most.

Running Back

Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and Larry Rountree (3)

Joshua Kelley is the obvious omission here. Some will argue that it’s too early to move on from him after struggling as a rookie, and he could battle his way onto the roster, but this coaching staff drafted Rountree for a reason. I expect him to make an impact as a rookie, and potentially even push Jackson for that second spot. There’s been a lot of frustration among fans about Jackson’s ability to stay healthy, which was only exacerbated when he found himself on the Covid list recently. However, he has clearly been the most explosive back on this roster over the last few years not named Austin Ekeler. His inability to stay healthy will impact his touches, not his ability to make the roster. 


Gabe Nabers (1)

The coaching staff essentially guaranteed Nabers’ role when they didn’t bring in another fullback to challenge him for a roster spot. He could be in for an expanded role in his second season. If Nabers can excel as a pass-catching fullback this year, that only opens up more options for this offense. He must improve as a blocker, though. 

Tight End

Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Stephen Anderson, and Tre McKitty (4)

Recently, Joe Brady (offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers) said in an interview that the tight end position is the most important skill position in their offensive tree because of the mismatches they can create. Brady, of course, shares a coaching tree with Lombardi from their days together with Sean Payton and the Saints. This mentality can help explain why Cook, Jimmy Graham, and even Ben Watson have been key players at the position for that offense over the years.

After Cook, who is already developing a nice rapport with Herbert, the group is largely unproven. My thinking here is that they will use the tight end by committee approach until someone truly separates themselves. 

McKitty will have a large role as he is the best blocker of this group. He has been rotating in with the first-team offense, mostly as an inline blocker or H-back. Parham is a massive human being and is likely the one who will end up receiving the second-most targets of the bunch. He has been making a killing in the red zone drills so far. 

Anderson is absolutely on the roster bubble, but his ability after the catch is an attribute that Parham and McKitty simply do not have. It was an extremely small sample size last year, but he was the number one tight end in the league in yards after the catch. If he ends up making the roster, that’s why. He’s shown nice chemistry with Daniel so far in practices. 

Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton, and KJ Hill (6)

This group presents some very interesting position battles. Someone has to be third on the depth chart. Johnson has gotten off to the hottest start and presents a unique skill set of deep speed and short-area quickness. 

Palmer’s ability to run routes like a savvy veteran is immediately noticeable in the position drills. He had a fantastic day of practice on Saturday, and Coach Staley loves him.

Guyton hasn’t really made a standout effort yet so far in camp, but his speed always makes him a threat. 

The tough part of this group is going to be sorting out that sixth spot. Someone in this group will be returning punts. It’s most likely going to be Hill, or Austin Proehl (Ryan Dyrud’s favorite). Proehl seems to be a little more comfortable in that role but doesn’t offer much as a receiver. Choosing Hill is absolutely a gut feeling but this is very much a toss-up.
Unless Joe Reed is able to gain some momentum ahead of Nasir Adderley as a kick returner, I just don’t see how he survives final cuts.

Offensive Line

Starters: Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, and Bryan Bulaga (5)

No real surprises here, although the coaching staff did say initially that Aboushi would have to earn his starting spot no one else on the roster has a real chance to unseat him. Brandon Staley did finally and officially confirm that Feiler will be playing on the left side, and Aboushi will be playing on the right side which was really the only question we needed to be answered from the starting unit. 

*Note: there hasn’t been much reporting on the offensive line because they are not in full pads yet. Once they are, we will have a much clearer vision in terms of this unit’s ability.

Backups: Scott Quessenberry, Trey Pipkins, Tyree St Louis, and Brenden Jaimes (4)

Quessenberry is the best of this group and has occasionally worked with the first throughout the offseason when any of the starting interior group has been missing. 

The Chargers have been load managing some of their older veterans, including Bulaga, who hasn’t been working a full caseload. He is not injured to be clear, but when he rotates out it has been Pipkins who rotates in with the first-team offense. Pipkins has also been working at left tackle with the second-team offense, so it appears he has the early edge over Norton for the swing tackle battle.

Jaimes will have to prove he belongs, and he has mostly been working with the third-team offense so far, but I am a big believer in his talent. The team did just draft him this year, so he should be safe – at least in terms of making the final 53. 

The last spot likely comes down to St Louis, Storm Norton, or Ryan Hunter. St Louis and Hunter have been manning the guard spots for the second-team offense, and Norton the right tackle spot. But the Chargers have been all about flexibility up front and St Louis can play guard or tackle so until we see more from the other linemen on the team, St Louis is my pick. The Chargers could keep ten offensive linemen if they feel that Norton or someone else shows enough in camp.

Defensive Tackle

Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Christian Covington, and Breiden Fehoko (5)

The first four here feel very safe. The Chargers are switching their base defense to a 3-4 which requires three defensive tackles on the field. Joseph, Jones, and Tillery will start but Covington will have a role too. 

I think the Chargers will carry a fifth defensive tackle, and this could be a potential spot for an undrafted free agent. Jared Goldwire was actually one of the more athletic defensive tackles in this last draft class and brings great length to the table. He was also given the most guaranteed money of all the Chargers undrafted free agents this year. Cortez Broughton is in the mix as well. For now, I think Fehoko is the safer bet because of his ability to stop the run. 

Edge Rusher

Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyler Fackrell, Chris Rumph II, Emeke Egbule (5)

No real surprises here in terms of roster construction. Similar to the defensive tackle group, I believe they will carry five edge rushers and Emeke Egbule has been the edge rusher opposite of Rumph with the second-team defense. We still haven’t really seen much of him but he did look good in his lone game appearance against the Saints last year. Him making the roster is really up in the air. Jesse Lemonier could also be in play.

There was a big surprise however in terms of the rotation with the first team. From what I saw on Friday and Saturday, it appears that Fackrell will have a much larger role than anticipated. He was essentially rotating in 50-50 with Nwosu from what I saw on those two days. Definitely, something to keep an eye on.


Kenneth Murray, Kyzir White, Drue Tranquill, Nick Niemann, Cole Christiansen (5)

The Chargers have a very good trio of inside linebackers with Murray, White, and Tranquill. Murray looked fantastic in practice and was really flying around. I am anxious to see him get into pads and really do some damage. White has been one of the biggest standouts in camp thus far. He looks more explosive this year and finally seems to be at the level we saw him (briefly) play at during his rookie season. He was on the field with the first-team defense more often than Tranquill was – at least from what I saw. Tranquill will still have a role on this team, but it seems that he is behind White for now.

Niemann will have to earn his way into the rotation but I would be shocked if the Chargers cut him. It seems like he’ll be a core special teamer to start out his career, which is not a bad thing. One of the other players who looks to be a core special teamer is Christiansen. Many have pegged this as a potential spot for Amen Ogbongbemiga, but Christiansen has been working with all four first-team special teams units from what I’ve seen. This is a battle that will go down to the wire, but Christiansen is out to the early lead.

Defensive Back

Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Michael Davis, Chris Harris, Brandon Facyson, Asante Samuel Jr., Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb, Ryan Smith, Tevaughn Campbell (10)

This Chargers coaching staff is throwing the kitchen sink at these defensive backs, in terms of personnel packages. James and Harris are essentially being moved around all over the field. James has played as a deep safety, in the box, in the slot, and as linebacker so far in camp. Harris has lined up as an outside corner, in the slot, and as a deep safety in dime packages. Adderley and Webb are also being cross-trained at multiple positions. It’s truly amazing to watch in person all the different ways that this defensive backfield moves around.

Facyson is working with the first-team defense in nickel and dime situations, much to the chagrin of Chargers fans. It is clear they have a plan for both he and Samuel Jr. – who has also been moving between outside and slot corner so far in camp. Obviously, we would all love to see Samuel Jr. with the first-team defense but the staff is going to work him in slowly and figure out how best to use him. That is not a bad thing. Fans should be patient, but it is clear they do not view Facyson as a simple placeholder. Samuel Jr. will have to earn his spot. Competition is a good thing.

Smith and Campbell are likely special teams players and backups but I expect them to make the roster.


Ty Long, Tristan Vizcaino, Cole Mazza (3)

Long’s job is safe, despite the “competition” that is taking place. Mazza’s job seems relatively safe as well, but honestly, we have zero indication about who has the early lead. For what it’s worth, I am rooting for Ryan Langan on the sole basis that I thought his hype video was awesome.

The battle for placekicker is the most legitimate competition on the roster. Michael Badgley is the incumbent starter and has a massive edge in experience. However, the Chargers’ new coaching staff has indicated that they would like a kicker with a little more oomph, both as a placekicker and as someone to man the kickoff duty – this obviously not Badgley’s forte. Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this. 

The Chargers did not run out any field goal units, or allow their kickers to actually kick off so I didn’t get to gain any intel this weekend on this battle. But I keep going back to Derius Swinton’s comments during OTA’s about the two new kickers. He had a full-blown scouting report about Vizcaino and spoke rather glowingly about him. This is honestly the only reason that I am predicting it to be Vizcaino right now. Until we see their work in preseason games, no one will know for sure, but I’m fairly confident in saying it won’t be Badgley.

Let me know what you think of the current roster predictions in the comments below!


Tyron Johnson catches a touchdown in training camp! Via Ty Nowell