Now that the regular season is almost upon us, here’s part 1 of my prediction for the Chargers Final 53 man roster. Today I’m covering the offense and then in part 2, I’ll go over defense and special teams.
- Philip Rivers
- Geno Smith
Fortunately, the Los Angeles Chargers are in the enviable position of having a veteran quarterback who is super reliable and rarely misses any time on the field. There is no doubt who is going to pilot the offense but the battle came behind Philip Rivers for the QB2 position between Cardale Jones and Geno Smith. To me, I feel like Smith has looked far more comfortable, confident and competent in the offense throughout training camp and the preseason action. This should spell the end for the Cardale experiment and for me, he’s not even worth keeping around in any capacity. Jones should have had the leg up on Smith because he’s been in the Bolts system for a year but in that time he’s really not shown any progression whatsoever from what I’ve seen, so as much as I think Head Coach, Anthony Lynn wanted it to work, it’s time to say goodbye.
Running Backs (3)
- Melvin Gordon
- Austin Ekeler
- Detrez Newsome
Much like the quarterback position, the top of the depth chart was pretty much written in pen with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. The interesting battle going into training camp was between Detrez Newsome, Russell Hansbrough and 7th round pick, Justin Jackson, who most would have had in pencil at least for the RB3 spot. However I can only see that third spot go to Newsome now given his preseason performances!
After he was drafted, I was excited to see what Justin Jackson was going to bring to the table. His numbers at Northwestern were good and he was talked about as a smart kid with a lot going for him. So I’m kind of bummed to be writing this and predicting he’s going to get cut but a hamstring injury hasn’t allowed him to get on the field and showcase his abilities. Personally, I really hope L.A. get the chance to get him on the practice squad.
The man benefiting from the ailing Jackson is 5’10, 210lb back Detrez Newsome out of Western Carolina. You’re thinking who? And where? Right? But we all thought the same about Austin Ekeler last year and that’s worked out just fine.
Newsome has actually lead the Bolts in rushing and in rushing touchdowns in the preseason; 35 rushes for 115 yards and 2 scores, so he’s grasped his opportunity with both hands and gets my RB3 spot as a result.
Full Backs (1)
- Derek Watt
Nothing really to see here. The team brought it a camp body so that Watt wouldn’t have to take every single rep in camp and in the preseason games, but it was never in doubt.
Tight Ends (3)
- Virgil Green
- Sean Culkin
- Braedon Bowman
Eeeesh… what a group… and I don’t mean in a good way. Hunter Henry’s injury has left this group as by far the weakest on the roster in my opinion and the team are rightly leaving the door ajar for him to return later in the year.
The worst part is that you can see why the front office brought Virgil Green in; to team up with Hunter Henry to form a really balanced tight end duo with Green’s exceptional blocking prowess freeing Henry up to catch as many football’s as possible. Now that plan is kind of hamstrung.
Green has never been a receiving tight end but has been trying to build chemistry with Philip Rivers. In addition to that, Sean Culkin hasn’t had a great preseason in terms of catches and receptions but the team will probably keep him around as they’ve developed him thus far.
Braedon Bowman has also been around the team for a year and he’s another one who Gus Bradley rates really highly, having recommended the Charges sign him after they were together in Jacksonville.
Can Bowman burst on to the scene and save the day? Is the solution to sign one Antonio Gates? Or have the coaches seen something in practice from Ben Johnson or Cole Hunt? Probably all pretty unlikely… I feel the solution is more 3 and 4 wide receiver sets.
Wide Receivers (6)
- Keenan Allen
- Tyrell Williams
- Mike Williams
- Travis Benjamin
- Aratvis Scott
- Geremy Davis
Speaking of wide receivers… I feel that the injury to Hunter Henry means the Chargers will almost certainly carry 6 wide receivers since there’s no one in the tight end group who has shown much as a receiver.
The top 3 spots are locked down; Keenan Allen, along with Tyrell and Mike Williams are on this team, without question.
After that it gets interesting… Travis Benjamin is due $7m this season and whilst he’s one of the fastest receivers in the NFL it becomes a steep price to pay for a WR4, especially if he is no longer going to return punts and kicks.
Artavis Scott is putting the front office under some pressure here as he’s shown growth as a receiver and has also been tried in the return game. JJ Jones, who I don’t think will make the team, has also scored a punt return TD this season. Geremy Davis also looks like he’s made strides as a receiver since we saw him last season too. Then there’s the question of Dylan Cantrell; like Justin Jackson at running back, he hasn’t been on the field anywhere near as much as he’d have liked due to injury.
So, that’s 4 young guys whose combined salary isn’t anywhere close to $7m and 4 young guys who offer different strengths.
I feel Davis and Scott have done enough so it’s Benjamin vs. Cantrell for the last spot. So it really could down to economics and whether they think Cantrell will clear waivers so they can stash him on the practice squad.
Offensive Linemen (9)
- Russell Okung
- Sam Tevi
- Michael Schofield
- Joe Barksdale
- Forest Lamp
- Dan Feeney
- Mike Pouncey
- Scott Quessenberry
- Spencer Pulley
Last but not least, the big hogs up front. In an ideal world, with everyone healthy and playing well, the Bolts starting line from left to right would be; Okung, Feeney, Pouncey, Lamp and Barksdale. So those 5 are in.
The team seem to be bringing Forest Lamp on slowly after his ACL injury last year and currently have Michael Schofield listed as the starting right guard, so that’s Schofield in too.
Although he looks like he’s regressed from last year, Sam Tevi is their project swing tackle, so again he’s in the team.
Scott Quessenberry is a versatile interior lineman, who can add an insurance policy against Mike Pouncey’s troublesome hips. They also took him in the 5th round so he’s in too.
That leaves one spot and I think it’ll go to Spencer Pulley. The team seems to like him and again, he offers that versatility up front which is super valuable for backup offensive linemen as it means the team can potentially save roster spots now and in the future.
Overall a strong group to start with decent depth and potential after that.
So there you have it, there’s my picks for your 2018 Chargers offense. Look out for my next article where I’ll be looking at the defense and special teams!
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90