The Chargers released their initial unofficial depth chart before Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Rams.
While the first depth charts are always to be taken with a grain of salt, here are some of our thoughts.
– “OR” signifies that the team is undecided on certain position groups. For the right tackle group, Storm Norton is ahead of Trey Pipkins on the depth chart because he was the starter last season. However, the two will have the preseason to determine who wins the starting job.
– Another position group with “OR” is fullback, where rookie Zander Horvath is listed ahead of Gabe Nabers. Horvath has been working with the 1s on special teams at fullback, and he played some tailback on Monday. All signs lead me to believe he will win the job.
– Currently listed as the second running back is Joshua Kelley. Kelley has shown signs of improvement as a runner and has done an admirable job in pass protection. Isaiah Spiller is listed as the fourth back behind Larry Rountree. Rountree is ahead of Spiller simply because he has the NFL experience on him, even though the rookie has outperformed him thus far. It would not be surprising to see Kelley and Spiller split the snaps as RB2 to start the season.
– Jerry Tillery being listed as a starter over Morgan Fox seems to suggest his roster spot is secure despite rampant speculation and what seemed like a more pessimistic tone about his role in recent weeks. LA declined his fifth-year option this offseason, making this a make-or-break season for the former first-round pick. While Fox has performed well in this defensive system in the past, clearly the team wants to see more from the new acquisition before handing him a leading role.
– Perhaps the most infuriating part of the depth chart release was seeing Breiden Fehoko listed as a third-team defensive lineman. Fehoko was LA’s best defensive lineman last season, and yes, that’s not a high bar to clear. But Christian Covington was on last season’s team, and Fehoko outperformed him. Fehoko has continued to outperform him in training camp this offseason. And yet, we see Covington listed as the primary backup behind Austin Johnson. It certainly seems like those two are battling for a roster spot; keep an eye on their results this preseason.
– Kyle Van Noy was the only defender listed on the depth chart twice: once as a second-team pass rusher and once as a first-team linebacker. Perhaps more interestingly, Kenneth Murray is at the back of the depth chart on the other linebacker line behind Drue Tranquill. That seems to suggest that Van Noy will be a starter whether Murray is healthy or not. Of course, Murray, Tranquill, and Troy Reeder will all still see time, especially when Van Noy shifts down to rotate as a pass rusher. But in base defense, it looks like Van Noy and Tranquill are in the lead to be your starters.
– We’ve profiled several standouts on the defensive side of the ball during training camp. We touched on Fehoko earlier. Damon Lloyd is listed fifth at linebacker behind Van Noy, Reeder, Amen Ogbongbemiga, and UDFA Tyreek Maddox-Williams. Raheem Layne is a fourth team safety behind Derwin James, Alohi Gilman, and Ben DeLuca. Deane Leonard was mistakenly listed at safety, but seems to be at best fourth team behind JC Jackson, Michael Davis, and Tevaughn Campbell.
– The battles at the back of the roster seem to be beginning to sort themselves out. At EDGE, Emeke Egbule and Jamal Davis II, both listed as third teamers, seem to have an advantage over UDFA Ty Shelby for the EDGE4 role. Nick Niemann, listed at second team because of Murray’s injury, seems to have the edge over Ogbongbemiga and Lloyd for the final linebacker spot. Cornerback is still a question mark because of Leonard’s mislisting, but Campbell being a third-teamer makes it seem like he’s still very much in the mix. Layne and Ben DeLuca seem to be battling for the safety spot on the practice squad occupied by DeLuca last year with Alohi Gilman and Mark Webb Jr. both on the second team.