Pipkins has not developed as expected, if at all, through two career years. From being a surprise third-round pick in 2019, he could be a surprise cut if he doesn't show on his last preseason game that he can better handle real opposition on a game day.
Pipkins' career started with an unexpected phone call on a Friday night, as he was driving with his family to get dinner. Tom Telesco surprised everyone, including him, when he made him a Charger with a third-round pick at the 2019 NFL Draft. He was a project left tackle, and the plan involved him sitting a year or two to develop his game before he would be NFL-ready, after playing college football at small school Sioux Falls.
Injuries to the Chargers' roster derailed that plan and he had to play 13 games on his rookie season, including three starts. He ended up playing 251 snaps on offense, per Pro Football Reference. That amounts to 24% of total offensive snaps. While the offensive line was upgraded for the 2020 season, injuries once again made Pipkins play more than the Chargers would have wanted to.
For 2020, Pipkins started five games and played on 49% of the team's snaps on offense. 2021 would be the third year of the Trey Pipkins experiment, but has he shown enough to carry on? Pipkins had a 54.8 PFF grade in 2020, which ranked 72nd out of 79 tackles. That grade was substantially worse than his rookie season, in which he was graded 63.3.
Pipkins needs to demonstrate he has improved during the preseason, which is something he failed to do against the Rams and 49ers. His play was not inspiring at all, as he looked overmatched against backups. He has one more game to show Telesco and company he can still become at least a dependable backup in this league.
Pipkins, as with Kelley, has a few things going for him. Besides his draft capital, the Chargers aren't very deep at tackle. They have their starting spots well manned by Brian Bulaga and rookie Rayshawn Slater.
After them comes Storm Norton, who was solid last season and looked OK against the Rams in the preseason. Norton is good enough to be the primary backup, but Bulaga has some injury risk, and the Chargers would be wise to carry more than three tackles.
There are 8 offensive linemen I would carry before Pipkins on the roster, so his spot on the roster could be safe. For him to be cut, other players will need to ball out in the preseason. Tyree St. Louis is someone who could take his place. While St. Louis possesses versatility to play multiple spots on the line, he was arguably even worse than Pipkins last year and on the preseason games.
Pipkins should make the roster, but only because of the lack of depth at his position. His play on the field hasn't actually warranted for one more season on the team, so a release won't be that surprising.