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Staley, Telesco Dive Into Depth of Chargers Roster


The calendar will soon flip to April and the Chargers have 61 players on their current roster.

They will certainly add more in the 2023 NFL Draft, where they have seven picks as of now, and through the next few waves of free agency.

Not every player on the current roster is going to be here in the fall either, as roster construction is a constant process for the Bolts and every other team.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco recent summed up where the Chargers roster stands at the 2023 Annual League Meeting in Phoenix.

"Well, it's not perfect, and it's March 27th," Telesco said Monday evening. "We've got between now and around Labor Day to get it exactly the way we want it.

"So, we can kind of keep working at it," Telesco added. "Hard to give a generalization of where it is, I don't know where it is. Really won't even know until we hit training camp to be honest with you."

Both Telesco and Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley touched on the depth of certain position groups in Phoenix.

Here's a look at what they said about different parts of the Bolts roster.

Defensive Line

Staley succinctly summed up the trenches on the defensive side of the ball.

"I feel a lot better about where we are now than where we were a year ago," Staley said.

Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, two free agents from a season ago, remain on the roster. Morgan Fox re-signed with the Bolts after a career year in 2021. And 2021 rookie Otito Ogbonnia showed flashes before getting injured midway through the season.

Telesco provided updates on Ogbonnia and Johnson, who also missed the second half of the season with an injury.

"They're going to be playing this year," Telesco said. "Not exactly sure when they'll be yet but optimistic that they're on track right now."

Joseph-Day, Johnson and Fox will likely start, and that's a group Staley is fired up about.

"That's the right group to be starting out with," Staley said.

But Staley also had plenty of praise for Ogbonnia, a fifth-round pick from UCLA who played in seven games before getting injured on Sunday Night Football against the 49ers.

"I thought Tito, [his injury] was unfortunate because Tito was really coming on," Staley said. "That San Francisco game was such a big game for him playing against [49ers tackle] Trent [Williams] and the way he played gave us so much confidence.

"We were so disappointed because, as a rookie, you know when they're coming on. You can see it, when you know that it's happening for them or it's happening," Staley added. "That's what happened to Tito and then he got hurt, but we know that he can do it."

Staley also praised defensive tackle Chris Hinton, who is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, and played in four games down the stretch.

"Chris Hinton came in last year and did a really nice job for us, he was a pleasant surprise for us," Staley said. "[Run Game Coordinator/defensive line coach] Jay [Rodgers] has done a great job developing him.

"Chris was a big factor in our playoff game and down the stretch for us," Staley said of the 22-year-old. "He's a young guy. But keep building in the style we want to build up front, confident in where we're going."

Offensive Line

The Bolts are set up front, as the offensive line will be, from left to right, the combination of Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Jamaree Salyer and Trey Pipkins III.

Yes, you read that right. If you missed the recent news, Johnson is moving to left guard while Salyer is jumping from left tackle to right guard as Slater returns to the lineup.

After that, Staley mentioned Zack Bailey and Foster Sarell as key depth pieces.

"I think there's some guys that you don't know about too, that are on our team," Staley said. "Zack Bailey has done a heck of a job for us, Foster Sarell.

"Those guys are developing players too that got some action last year, that proved to us that they're developmental, that they can be a factor in the NFL," Staley added.

Sarell started three games for the Bolts in 2022 when Pipkins was out with a knee injury, while Bailey played in one game.

As for the possibility of adding further depth? Staley didn't rule it out.

"There's that process that you're talking about after the draft and obviously at the draft, we'll always be looking for lineman," Staley said.

Tight End

Staley is hoping this position room, which is unchanged from a season ago, takes another step under first-year Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore.

"That position is, when you can find it, it changes the way people have to play you," Staley said. "Kellen's had a lot of success that way, we've had a lot of success in the past playing that way at other places I've been.

"I believe as a head coach, gaps and vertical threats is how you really stress defenses," Staley added. "I think we have a good room right now, but we're always looking to add."

The 2023 tight end draft class has been hailed as the best in the past 10 years, as numerous players are expected to go in the first few rounds.

The Bolts brought back Donald Parham, Jr., after an injury-plagued season but Staley noted the Chargers still "feel like he's a weapon."

Staley also said Gerald Everett "had his best season for us," and that they "need to get more" from third-year tight end Tre' McKitty.

Stone Smartt is also on the roster after appearing in seven games in 2022.

"Stone Smartt is an up-and-coming player for sure, that we think has potential," Staley said.


Derwin James, Jr., remains one of the team's best players and is also an emotional leader in the locker room.

But there is intrigue in the starting spot next to him, as Nasir Adderley retired after holding down that gig for the past three seasons.

Alohi Gilman, who earned the start in place of Adderley in the playoffs, is the top option to start next to James.

Telesco also mentioned JT Woods, a 2022 third-round pick, as someone who could see more playing time.

"Loved what Alohi did last year, he played some really good football for us," Telesco said. "We've got draft picks from last year [going] into year 2 like JT Woods and they'll be in the mix and kind of go from there."

Wide Receiver

Justin Herbert's top three receivers from a year ago are all back.

"You know the way we feel about our three guys — Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer — that's the right group to be starting with, for sure," Staley said. "We've proven that we can throw the football, I mean we threw for over 5,000 yards our first year, 4,700 [yards last year]."

But speaking Monday morning in Phoenix, Staley placed an emphasis on continuing to add weapons around the franchise quarterback at any position.

Wide receiver is certainly one of them, Staley said, but it's not the only one.

"You're trying to be a group that's hard to defend every snap, make them defend the entire football field vertically, horizontally," Staley said. "I think weapons come from a lot of different places, it can be a receiver, it can be a tight end, it can be a runner.

"What you're looking for is weapons, that's what makes you tough to defend, not just receivers," Staley added. "So, I think what we're trying to become is a complete offense where you have to defend everybody, and I think those are the ones that are the most challenging."

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