By Art Garcia
With the start of the NFL season kicking off next Thursday, Sept. 4, teams are required to reduce their rosters to their final 53 players by this Saturday. Although most of the Chargers opening day roster is likely set in stone, injuries along the offensive and defensive lines will have Telesco and Co. sifting through a number of players who will become available following the aforementioned league-wide cuts.
Every year there is a player or two whose performance both in training camp and exhibition games makes him too valuable to cut. And over the past decade there have been several undrafted free agents who not only made the Chargers roster, but earned Pro Bowl honors as well.
Whether this roster produces another Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman or Kassim Osgood remains to be seen. However, as we go to print here’s a look at a projected 2014 Chargers roster prior to their final exhibition game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
Quarterback (2) – Philip Rivers and Kellen Clemmons.
Running Backs (3) – Ryan Mathews; Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown.
Wide Receivers (6) – Keenan Allen; Malcom Floyd; Eddie Royal; Seyi Ajirotutu; Vincent Brown and Dontrelle Inman. Although Brown has been virtually a no-show in camp and the exhibition games thanks to a calf injury – his familiarity with the system; rapport with Rivers; and past performance (although limited) keeps him on the roster for now.
Tight Ends (4) – Antonio Gates; Ladarius Green; David Johnson and John Phillips.
Offensive Line (8) – D.J. Fluker; King Dunlap; Chad Rinehart; Nick Hardwick; Chris Watt; Rich Ohrnberger; Johnnie Troutman and Michael Harris.
Defensive Line (7) – Corey Liuget; Kendall Reyes; Sean Lissemore; Ryan Carrethers; Lawrence Guy; Joe Kruger and Doug Worthington.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Donald Brown; Manti Te’o; Kavell Conner; Reggie Walker and Andrew Gachkar.
Outside Linebackers (6) – Melvin Ingram; Jarret Johnson; Dwight Freeney; Jerry Attaochu; Tourek Williams and Thomas Keiser.
Cornerbacks (5) – Brandon Flowers; Shareece Wright; Jason Verrett; Richard Marshall and Steve Williams.
Safeties (4) – Eric Weddle; Marcus Gilchrist; Jahleel Addae and Darrell Stuckey.
Punter (1) – Mike Scifres.
Kicker (1) – Nick Novak.
Long Snapper (1) – Mike Windt.
Looking to add much-need bulk and depth to the defensive line, the Chargers claimed Kruger off waivers from Philadelphia following Geathers’ knee injury against the 49ers. Kruger, a seventh-round pick by the Eagles in the 2013 draft, was injured during the preseason and spent the entire 2013 season on the “Reserved-Injured” list. The younger brother of Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger, the 6’6, 290-pound Kruger played collegiately at Utah. After a strong showing in the 27-7 exhibition win over the Cowboys, undrafted rookie running back Branden Oliver could get caught up in the numbers game and end up on the practice squad rather than the active roster. With the Chargers looking to field the best 53 players, it’s hard to see a scenario where Telesco keeps a third quarterback and a fourth running back at the expense of possibly losing a couple of players like Ajirotutu and Keiser – two players who always seem to make a big play when the team needs it. As teams around the league trim their rosters to 53 players this Saturday, there will likely be a player or two for Telesco to sign off the open market. With concern over Geathers’ availability and the Union Tribune reporting that guard Jeromy Clary will start the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, the Chargers will likely sign another player since Clary will not count against the 53-man roster. Per league policy, a player who is placed on PUP must miss at least six weeks of the season.