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5 Takeaways: Tom Telesco on the Bolts Initial 53-Man Roster


The Bolts initial 53-man roster came out Tuesday morning.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco then held a videoconference with reporters in the afternoon.

Here are five takeaways from the Telesco's media availability:

1. The perfect roster & UDFAs

You never know how the roster is going to evolve this time of year.

The Bolts initial 53-man roster might have included some surprises to those outside the building, but not to Telesco and his staff.

The Chargers front office and personnel department spent the past few weeks crafting and constructing the roster that was unveiled Tuesday morning.

Telesco gave some insight on how things came together.

"As you work through, every year is unique as far as how many players you may keep at a certain position," Telesco said. "It fluctuates."

He later added: "A lot of it depends on where your talent is, a lot of it depends on where some injuries are to your roster. You could be heavy at one position because you have some injuries. We look at this on a daily basis, the roster and how it's going to fit together."

The end result was the 53 players who were still in the building Tuesday.

But Telesco recalled the wisdom of Tony Dungy, whom Telesco worked with while in Indianapolis, as a backbone of his thought process while putting together the roster.

"Tony Dungy used to say that it's not the best 53 players, it's the 53 players that are going to best fit what you are going to do with your football team," Telesco said. "There is a difference there as far as how you put your team together.

"We put in a lot of work in at all these positions. You try and be right and try to put the perfect roster together," Telesco added. "The perfect roster is difficult to find but we all strive for it. That's how it shook out this year."

Telesco said that mantra applied to the pair of undrafted free agents — running back Elijah Dotson and safety AJ Finley — that made the team.

"It's something the scouts are always proud of," Telesco said. "It should be a hard roster to make, that's the hope.

"This year, I didn't know how it would shake out ... maybe one, maybe two, maybe three," Telesco added. "For where we are roster-wise, it's nice to have those guys pop out."

Dotson impressed in the preseason with a pair of long touchdown runs against the Rams.

"He did everything you need to do," Telesco said. "Especially coming from where he came from, to make an impression on this football team both as a running back running the football, as a receiver out of the backfield, which is one of the things he did really well in college, and then pass protection.

"We think may have some special teams value as well, but he came in and earned a spot," Telesco added.

Finley, meanwhile, was steady in camp and the preseason.

"He played a lot, he played probably at least half the snaps in the preseason, maybe even half the snaps on special teams," Telesco said. "He got a lot of work in preseason games and he picked up things relatively quick. He's got some versatility in the secondary and some special teams potential. We'll see how it plays out, but he's done a really nice job."

Presenting the 53-man roster for your 2023 Los Angeles Chargers

2. Tough calls on the O-line

The Chargers kept nine offensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster.

That group includes the five starters plus four reserves, but Telesco noted that the offensive line group was perhaps the hardest position to trim down.

Telesco said the Chargers would have kept 11 offensive linemen if possible. But nine was the number, as the group included Brenden Jaimes while Zack Bailey was waived.

"It was a deep offensive line group; we kept nine active," Telesco said. "If we could've kept more, we would've kept more. Hard to do.

"Those two particular players play different positions ... but Brendan's done a nice job, he has a lot of flexibility on the offensive line," Telesco added. "He's been improving each year and he played very, very well against San Francisco. We think it's a pretty deep group to start with and hopefully it stays that way throughout the year."

Telesco noted that position flexibility can play a role in which players are kept on the initial 53.

"If you're not a starting five player, if your offensive lineman is six, seven, eight or in this case, nine, you're going to have to have multiple spots either tackle/guard, guard/center," Telesco said. "Those two guys, they both have some flexibility as far as the positions they play, which is good to have. But like I said, it was a really deep group, we would've kept more active if we could, we just can't."

3. A note on the specialists

There wasn't much drama Tuesday when the trio of Cameron Dicker, JK Scott and Josh Harris were on the roster.

Not with Monday's trade of Dustin Hopkins to Cleveland, a move that set the Bolts trio of specialists in stone.

Telesco on Tuesday praised Hopkins while adding that Dicker won the job in recent weeks.

"It was a pleasure having Dustin here. He's and outstanding kicker, outstanding person," Telesco said. "Kind of the way it played out, Cleveland had a need, they really wanted him and from our standpoint, Cameron had done an excellent job both kicking for us last year and then through offseason work and then through training camp.

"Very consistent, he's been very good," Telesco added. "We felt like we had two quality NFL kickers, but it felt like Cameron was who we were going to go with and then the Cleveland deal presented itself to us, so in the end everything worked out for everybody."

Telesco smiled when asked about the kicker position being a mark of stability on the team, something that hasn't always been the case. Remember the Chargers used three different kickers during the 2022 season.

"First time in a long time at that position," Telesco said with a smile. "We knew going into this season we had two really high-quality NFL kickers.

"Especially the way we've been here where it's been hard to find one consistent kicker for a long period of time, it was a good problem to have," Telesco added. "We knew whoever didn't win the job was going to be working somewhere in the NFL this year, so like I said, everything kind of worked out well for everybody."

Check out the best photos from the initial 53-man practice on Tuesday at Hoag Performance Center.

4. Updates on Guyton and Ogbonnia

A pair of Chargers — wide receiver Jalen Guyton and defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia — will begin the season on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list.

That means each player will miss at least the first four games of the 2023 season.

Telesco didn't have much of an update on their statuses Tuesday.

"[He'll return] at some point," Telesco said of Ogbonnia. "I don't know when, but obviously nothing in the next four weeks and we'll kind of see where we are after that as far as when he can start practicing again."

As for Guyton, Telesco said: "He'll be out a minimum of four weeks and we'll kind of go from there."

Telesco was asked about Guyton's recovery from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 3 of the 2022 season.

"Every injury, every person is different. He's doing really well," Telesco said. "He's been running for a long time, he's been doing a lot of field work for the last six weeks or so, eight weeks. But not quite there yet.

"He'll have some extra time through this next four weeks. It's actually five weeks because right now this doesn't count yet," Telesco added. "And then we'll kind of reevaluate them all the way through there. But he's doing pretty well."

5. Okoye staying with Bolts

The feel-good story of the Bolts preseason is staying in powder blue.

Telesco said the defensive tackle C.J. Okoye is set to be on Bolts practice squad due to a roster exemption from the International Player Pathway program.

NFL practice squads are capped at 16 players but Okoye's means the Bolts will get a 17th spot.

Telesco praised Okoye's growth and said he's beloved by teammates, something that was evident when the sideline went wild after Okoye's sack against the Rams in the preseason opener.

"He's really done a tremendous job. First of all, he's enormous. He's big — a strong frame and lean body for how big he is," Telesco said of the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Nigerian native. "One of the more impressive things is, just working with Jay Rodgers a couple months, he does have a feel for separating off blocks and a little feel for where the ball is.

"You see players who played four years of high school, four years of college and sometimes they struggle to get off a block as a defensive lineman," Telesco added. "He's starting to show some of those signs here and there and he's only 21 years old. He has a really long way to go but his work ethic has been outstanding. He's really into this and this is a passion for him."

One final note: Telesco said the Chargers are hoping to get quarterback Max Duggan, a 2023 seventh-round pick, onto their practice squad.

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