Final Chargers 53-man roster projection

By Matt Pagels
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 30: Detrez Newsome #38 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled by Antone Exum #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during their preseason game at Levi's Stadium on August 30, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 30: Detrez Newsome #38 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled by Antone Exum #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during their preseason game at Levi's Stadium on August 30, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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ARLINGTON, TX – NOVEMBER 23: Travis Benjamin #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass in the first quarter of a football game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX – NOVEMBER 23: Travis Benjamin #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass in the first quarter of a football game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

QUARTERBACK (2):

  • Philip Rivers
  • Geno Smith

ANALYSIS: Rivers is a legend. The 36-year-old bolo tie-wearing, smack-talking veteran looked great in limited snaps. This Rivers-led offense has a chance to be unstoppable. Let’s get this man his ring!

As for Rivers’ backup, former New York Jets and New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith, who was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, has the edge over Cardale Jones. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco traded for Jones last season, but the 2016 fourth-round pick has been trending in the wrong direction. It’s time to move on.

RUNNING BACK (3):

  • Melvin Gordon
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Detrez Newsome

ANALYSIS: Love this stable of backs. And for the third straight year, the Chargers will almost certainly make room for an undrafted rookie running back after Newsome’s preseason performance. Ekeler (who looks terrific by the way) and Kenneth Farrow made it in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Branden Oliver, who was with the team the last four years (missed all of 2016 due to injury), made it as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

The Western Carolina product led the Chargers in carries (42), rushing yards (150) and rushing touchdowns (two) this preseason. Justin Jackson, the Chargers’ 2018 seventh-round pick out of Northwestern, was the favorite to make the roster prior to preseason play, but a hamstring injury cost him valuable time. He made his debut on Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers, but he finished with just 18 yards on seven carries. However, his 16-yard rush with seconds remaining helped put Roberto Aguayo in an easier situation to kick the game-winning field goal.

Jackson, who currently ranks No. 11 in all-time rushing yards in NCAA history, was drafted for a reason. Let’s hope the Chargers can stash him on the practice squad.

FULLBACK (1):

  • Derek Watt

ANALYSIS: Watt made some impressive blocks for Newsome and Ekeler during the preseason. He also made some plays in the passing game. Undrafted rookie Anthony Manzo-Lewis had his moments, too, but the Chargers will likely continue to go with Watt. Perhaps Manzo-Lewis will be a candidate for the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVER (6):

  • Keenan Allen
  • Tyrell Williams
  • Mike Williams
  • Travis Benjamin
  • Geremy Davis
  • Dylan Cantrell/J.J. Jones

Barring a trade, the first five are locks. Artavis Scott earned himself a spot, too, but he was carted to the locker room after suffering an injury in the team’s preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers.

If Scott’s out for the year (which this is based off of), the Chargers should make room for Dylan Cantrell or J.J. Jones. Cantrell, a 2018 sixth-round pick, shined early on during training camp but hasn’t seen the field as of late due to injury. Meanwhile, Jones has really made an impact in the return game–and we all know the Chargers needed help in that department.

If the Chargers do go with Jones, they better pray the promising Cantrell clears waivers.

TIGHT END (2):

  • Virgil Green
  • Sean Culkin

ANALYSIS: Tight end is definitely the biggest weakness on the team. Green and Culkin aren’t bad players, but they’re not Hunter Henry. Henry hasn’t been placed on season-ending injured reserve yet, but that will likely happen soon. The Chargers need a pass-catching tight end, and they should look to target one on the waiver wire or via trade. Re-signing Antonio Gates is another option.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

  • Russell Okung
  • Dan Feeney
  • Mike Pouncey
  • Michael Schofield
  • Joe Barksdale
  • Forrest Lamp
  • Spencer Pulley
  • Scott Quessenberry
  • Sam Tevi

ANALYSIS: The starting offensive line played well. The run blocking looked like it has improved, too. Did you see Forrest Lamp in his debut on Thursday? He’ll make this group even better when he takes over for Schofield at right guard.

The tackle position is a bit of a concern after watching Tevi get beat again and again. If Okung or Barksdale were to go down, the Chargers will be in trouble. I’d take a look and see who is available on the waiver wire.

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