COSTA MESA — Surprises? You wanted surprise cuts from Chargers general manager Tom Telesco?
Since the Chargers decided to run it back with a roster that finished with a 10-7 regular-season record last season and advanced to the playoffs for only the third time in Telesco’s first 10 years as GM, it stood to reason that Tuesday’s cuts to an NFL-mandated 53 players would be predictable.
After all, offseason moves were minimal, with the noteworthy exception of the addition of free agent linebacker Eric Kendricks following the departure of free agent linebacker Drue Tranquill. So, the roster assembled for the upcoming season was bound to look very much like last season’s roster.
Naturally, things are likely to change.
Injuries and inadequate play could necessitate alterations sooner rather than later.
Nothing is set in stone.
The season begins Sept. 10.
“I feel like it’s time to play regular-season football,” Telesco said when asked during a video conference call with beat reporters about his confidence level in this roster going into the season and whether this team was a deeper team than last season. “That’s the mindset right now.”
Any other opinions at this moment were “just words,” he said.
“We look at this on a daily basis, the whole roster and how it’s going to fit together,” he later said when asked about depth at one position versus depth at another. “Tony Dungy used to say this a lot: It’s not necessarily the best 53 players, it’s the 53 players that best fit what you’re going to do with your football team.”
Telesco referred to the Hall of Fame player and former coach.
“There is a difference there as far as how you put your football team together,” Telesco added. “We put a lot of work into all these positions and you try to be right. You try to put the perfect roster together. The perfect roster is difficult to find, but we all strive for it. But this is how it shook out this year.”
Among the players cut from the training camp roster were offensive lineman Zack Bailey, wide receiver Keelan Doss, quarterback Max Duggan, wide receiver John Hightower, edge rusher Carlo Kemp, defensive lineman David Moa, defensive lineman CJ Okoye and defensive back Mark Webb Jr.
Okoye will be an additional member of the practice squad when it’s announced Wednesday. Okoye, a Nigeria native who played his first organized football game in the Chargers’ exhibition game against the Rams on Aug. 12, joined the team as part of the NFL’s international outreach program.
“He has a really long way to go, but his work ethic has been outstanding,” Telesco said of the 21-year-old Okoye. “It’s something he wants to do. He’s really into this. It’s a passion for him. Our guys love him, as far as our players in the locker room. They feel like he belongs, which is big.”
Bailey lost a training camp battle as the Chargers elected to keep Brenden Jaimes, who served as Duggan’s designated center during two exhibition appearances in addition to toggling between tackle and guard in backup roles. Duggan, a seventh-round draft pick, is likely to make the practice squad.
All of the Chargers’ draft picks, led by wide receiver Quentin Johnston, made the initial roster with the exception of Duggan. Johnston, a first-round pick, and Duggan, a seventh-round selection, were teammates at TCU. Wide receiver Derius Davis, a fourth-round pick, also is from TCU.
“I think they’re all going to have a role on game day,” Telesco said of the 2023 draft picks. “They all showed they belong.”
Safety AJ Finley and running back Elijah Dotson were considered mild upsets to make the team. The Chargers liked Finley, an undrafted rookie from Mississippi, because of his speed and smarts in the defensive backfield. They liked Dotson, an undrafted rookie from Northern Colorado, for many of the same reasons.
The other cuts were more or less expected.
Easton Stick was a clear winner over Duggan for the backup quarterback spot behind Justin Herbert. Dustin Hopkins became expendable after Cameron Dicker won the kicking competition. So, on Monday, Telesco traded Hopkins to the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round pick in 2025.
“In the end, everything worked out for everybody,” Telesco said.
In addition, wide receiver Jaylen Guyton and defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia will start the season on the PUP list, ensuring they will be sidelined for the first four games. Defensive lineman Austin Johnson started training camp on the PUP list, but he was recently cleared to play.
Offensive lineman Andrew Trainer will start the season on injured reserve.
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