Chargers announce their 53-man roster to start the 2021 season
September 2, 2021
The Los Angeles Chargers have their 53-man roster and are ready to go. Despite an uninspiring 27-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday night in Seattle, the Chargers accomplished what they set out to do in the preseason. They kept their starters healthy and were able to evaluate the rest of the roster in the three preseason games. The Chargers ended up 1-2 in the preseason.
On Tuesday, the Chargers announced their initial 53-man roster for the 2021 season:
Quarterbacks (3): Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
Running Backs (4): Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree, Joshua Kelley
Fullback (1): Gabe Nabers
Wide Receivers (5): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, Jalen Guyton, K.J. Hill
Tight End (4): Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stephen Anderson
Offensive Linemen (9): Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Bryan Bulaga, Trey Pipkins, Storm Norton, Scott Quessenberry, Brenden Jaimes
Defensive Linemen (5): Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Christian Covington, Forrest Merrill
Edge Rushers (4): Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyler Fackrell, Chris Rumph II
Linebackers (5): Kenneth Murray Jr., Drue Tranquill, Kyzir White, Nick Niemann, Amen Ogbongbemiga
Cornerbacks (6): Chris Harris Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, Brandon Facyson, Kemon Hall, Tevaughn Campbell
Safeties (4): Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb
Kicker - Tristan Vizcaino
Punter - Ty Long
Long Snapper - Matt Overton
All nine draft picks in the 2021 NFL draft made the roster, as well as two undrafted picks from the 2021 class, giving the Chargers a total of 11 rookies on the 53-man roster. The Chargers have twenty-one players that they have drafted on the roster from the past three drafts, plus five undrafted players from the past three drafts. The list of drafted players includes Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert from the 2020 NFL draft.
A surprising cut was wide receiver Tyron Johnson, who averaged 19.9 yards per reception last season on 20 catches. The Chargers decided to go with five wide receivers on the roster, keeping K.J. Hill for his ability on special teams. The reality is that the Chargers have seven wide receivers on their roster. Running back Austin Ekeler can line up on the outside or in the slot as a wide receiver. Ekeler has 212 receptions in four seasons with the Chargers.
Tight end Donald Parham, at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, has the athletic ability to line up on the outside and in the slot. He is more of a wide receiver than a tight end at this point in his career. At his pro day, Parham ran a 4.68 forty and had a 38.5" vertical leap. With Ekeler and Parham, the Chargers have a lot of versatility on offense and can comfortably get by with five wide receivers on the roster.
The Chargers also decided to cut kicker Michael Badgley in favor of Tristan Vizcaino, who played his high school football at Damien high school in La Verne. Vizcaino had the stronger leg, and his hang time was noticeably better as well. The Chargers are stressing field position on special teams this season, something that did not seem to be stressed enough in the past.
The Chargers kept three quarterbacks for a variety of reasons. Herbert is the starter. Chase Daniel is the veteran backup with experience in the offense and someone who is considered a good mentor for a young star like Herbert. Easton Stick is the No. 3 quarterback, but the reality is that Stick would likely be the starter in case of a long-term injury to Herbert.
Stick is a better athlete than Daniel and at 26 years of age, younger. Daniel is 35 years of age, has just five starts in his career and has thrown just seven career touchdown passes. The Chargers would be better off playing and developing Stick in case of a long-term injury to Herbert. The other reason to keep three quarterbacks is the Covid-19 pandemic, just in case one or two of the quarterbacks come down with the virus.
At running back, the Chargers decided to keep four, which was not surprising. As mentioned earlier, Ekeler will be used as a wide receiver at times and will probably not carry the ball more than 10-15 times a game. Jackson, Kelly, and Roundtree will be used in different situations. It will be interesting to see who emerges out of this group playing behind the starting offensive line.
Undrafted rookie nose tackle Forrest Merrill made the 53-man roster out of Arkansas State University. Ourlads Scouting Services described Merrill as a "blue collar nose tackle that can quietly make other players better. His width and presence demand double teams. Smart player that can think and execute. Likely a late round pick that will find a role within a 3-4 scheme as a space eater inside." Merrill did not get drafted but he has been everything that Ourlads described as a player.
Undrafted rookie Linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga out of Oklahoma State also made the 53-man roster. His ability to diagnose plays quickly impressed the coaching staff. He can be used as a blitzer, and he should help on special teams.
To the chagrin of many Charger fans, the team decided to keep offensive tackle Pipkins as a fourth tackle on the roster. Pipkins was drafted by the Chargers in the third round (91st overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft out of the University of Sioux Falls. Drafted as a developmental project, Pipkins has struggled with speed rushers, something which the NFL has no lack of. He is the fourth tackle on the team until the Chargers can find a better option.
The defensive roster looks like a playoff defense if they can stay healthy. James and Bosa are Pro Bowl players and the two best defensive players on the team and two of the best players in the league. In three seasons together, they have been on the field at the same time for total of 12 games out of a possible 48 regular season games. Getting and keeping both healthy and on the field will likely determine if the Chargers are a playoff team.
The linebackers are young and fast, with Tranquill the oldest at 26 and Murray the youngest at 22 years of age. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Chris Harris are the old veterans on the defense. Both are 32 years of age. Joseph has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his career and Harris has been invited to four Pro Bowls in his career. They both bring leadership and playoff experience to the defense.
Offensively, the questions will revolve around the offensive line. There are four new starters on the offensive line, and no one has seen them in an actual game together. From watching in practice, the offensive line seems to be improved. Offensive line depth will be a question for the team if they lose a player to a long-term injury.
Overall, this is a younger roster, which is also a more salary cap friendly roster, but there is still plenty of talent on the team. It can be a playoff roster with an improved offensive line, but more than anything, the Chargers need to stay healthy for a change. The 2021 regular season journey will begin on September 12th at FedExField in Landover, Maryland against the Washington Football Team.