Like all NFL teams, the Chargers face a Tuesday deadline to cut their roster from 90 players to 85.
The next trim – from 85 to 80 – is due on 23 August. A week later, teams must reach the 53-man limit.
Now, a little less than a month from the Chargers’ opener against Las Vegas on Sept. 11, let’s project when the 53-man roster could end up, keeping in mind that NFL rosters are fluid and will change throughout the seasons:
Quarters west: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
The Chargers have one of their best heroes in Herbert, who is entering his third year after perhaps the best two-season start in NFL history. No player has thrown for more yards or a touchdown in his first two years in the league.
Daniel was re-signed in March to remain as Herbert’s backup. Now 35, he is entering his 13th season.
Talking to his teammates, Stick has to be one of the most popular quarterbacks in the league. everyone all over the Chargers raves about his intelligence and what he brings to the team.
Stick was only active for one game last season and did not play. He and Daniel are engaged in a more legitimate competition that looks like No. 2 to open this season.
Running back: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree III
The real questions here are who will start the season as Ekeler’s primary backup and whether he can hold the job for the entire season.
Kelley looks stronger and more explosive entering his third year and started the Chargers’ preseason opener on Saturday night. He also talked about being more committed to improving special teams.
A fourth-round draft pick in the spring, Spiller is the front-runner of the three among Chargers fans. There is a huge outpouring of support for the Texas A&M rookie.
Backbacks: Zander Horvath
A rookie, Horvath is battling Gabe Nabers for this spot. Nabers was active for 10 games last season, playing mostly special teams. He was only on the field for 46 offensive snaps.
Horvath appears to be the more versatile of the two, having played cornerback at Purdue.
In the season opener, Horvath played 10 special teams games and Nabers played nine. Special teams ability could very well decide this contest.
Wide receivers: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Jalen Guyton, DeAndre Carter
Many observers are hoping for a breakout 2022 season for Palmer, who finished his rookie year strong. Herbert was targeted nine times in the dramatic final at Las Vegas.
Carter was signed to be the team’s starting punt returner but was also used poorly during training camp, catching passes and taking handoffs on sweepers.
Michael Bandy and Joe Reed starred in the Chargers’ season opener, and coach Brandon Staley was excited about both. However, neither has a clear path to a roster spot at this point.
Tight end: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham Jr., Tre McKitty
These three are clearly at the top of the depth chart. Right now, however, Parham and McKitty are dealing with injuries, and Parham appears to be further away from a return.
If Parham is unable to start the season, Hunter Kampmoyer will be next in line. A former teammate of Herbert’s at Oregon, Kampmoyer made his NFL debut last season, playing accidentally against Denver in Week 17.
Before Saturday’s exhibition, Nabers lined up with the tight ends due to an injury absence at the position.
Offensive linemen: Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Zion Johnson, Trey Pipkins III, Storm Norton, Will Clapp, Jamaree Salyer, Brenden Jaimes
The right tackle battle between Pipkins and Norton is the truest for the starting spot in this camp. As of today, Pipkins is expected to win the job, leaving Norton as the running mate.
The Chargers have invested one more year in Pipkins and used a third-round pick on him in 2019. Norton was signed as a free agent in 2020 after spending time in the XFL.
Salyer, a rookie from Georgia, is playing extensively with the second team, ahead of Jaimes, who was a fifth-round pick in 2021.
In the sixth round, Salyer has flexibility, having started at three different spots along the Bulldogs’ offensive front. He also benefited from practicing daily against some of the best defensive players in college football.
Defensive linemen: Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Jerry Tillery, Morgan Fox, Christian Covington, Otito Ogbonnia
After not appearing in the 2021 preseason, Tillery started Saturday’s game and played 12 snaps, suggesting his status is more in doubt this summer.
After last season, Staley talked about Tillery still finding his way in the NFL after characterizing Tillery as an established player a year earlier.
While he’s more likely to make the final roster, there’s still a chance Tillery won’t survive the cut to 53. That would allow the Chargers to keep Breiden Fehoko without exposing him to waivers.
Joe Gaziano is another player the Chargers will risk losing if they try to put him on the practice squad.
Edge rushers: Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Chris Rumph II, Kyle Van Noy
Due to injuries at linebacker, Van Noy has played inside almost exclusively since training camp opened. The Chargers figure in the end to line up the veteran on the edge, too.
Rumph was one of the players Staley singled out Saturday after he had a sack and another touchdown in a loss against the Rams. He looks to have secured a spot in the Chargers’ edge rotation.
Emeke Egbule is facing another battle to make an impact, which has been a reality since the Chargers drafted him in the sixth round in 2019. A year ago, he was activated from the practice squad three times.
Supporters line: Drue Tranquill, Troy Reeder, Amen Ogbongbemiga, Nick Niemann
Kenneth Murray Jr. appears to be still on his way back from offseason ankle surgery. He is not expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Tranquill, Ogbongbemiga and Niemann have also been dealing with injuries of late, although all three look close to returning. Tranquill has been a solid plus when healthy, while Ogbongbemiga and Niemann have shown potential.
All four of these inside linebackers have played special teams in the past and will likely continue to do so. In Staley’s system, this is a position that calls for flexibility and ability to play in the kicking game.
Corner: JC Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., Bryce Callahan, Michael Davis, Ja’Sir Taylor, Kemon Hall, Deane Leonard
The Chargers strengthened their secondary in a significant way in the offseason, signing veterans Jackson and Callahan and drafting Taylor and Leonard. Staley has often shown his love for stockpiling defensive backs.
More talented players means more options when it comes to coming up with different defensive packages and adds talent and depth on special teams, something the Chargers have also committed to under Staley.
Samuel and Davis have recently been splitting time on the outside against Jackson, a 2021 Pro Bowl player with New England. Davis also plays closer to the line of scrimmage in some passing situations.
Safety: Derwin James Jr., Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, JT Woods
The only ongoing off-field issue for the Chargers is the retention of James, the team’s defensive quarterback awaiting a contract extension before going to practice. James has been present for all of camp and, by all accounts, is ready to go.
Woods, a rookie third-round pick out of Baylor, had some growing pains as he transitioned to the NFL. Staley talked Saturday about Woods continuing to improve as a golfer.
Adderley has been among the players most praised by Staley since the end of last season. Entering his fourth year, Adderley has just one career interception in 34 games.
Specialists: Dustin Hopkins, JK Scott, Josh Harris
The Chargers signed Harris after he made the Pro Bowl with Atlanta last season, his 10th in the NFL. It has already been recognized by at least a teammate as one of the Chargers’ leaders.
Scott was signed after a year where he played just one game, for Jacksonville. Before that, he played three seasons with Green Bay.
Hopkins played 11 games with the Chargers in 2021, making 18 of 20 field goals and 30 of 32 extra points.