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Chargers’ 53-man roster: With the preseason over, who will make the cut?

Chargers linebacker Daiyan Henley, left, intercepts a pass during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers.
Chargers linebacker Daiyan Henley, left, intercepts a pass during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)
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The Chargers finished the preseason Friday night with a 23-12 victory over San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium.

Now personnel decisions must be made to reach the 53-man roster limit by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s one projection of that initial roster and practice squad:

Quarterback (2): Justin Herbert, Easton Stick

The Chargers will enter the season with Stick as their backup for the first time since drafting him in the fifth round in 2019. Only six players have been with the team longer.

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Stick, though, has appeared in only one regular-season game — against Jacksonville in 2020 — and played just two snaps that day.

Chargers rookies head into the team’s preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers looking to prove they belong on the roster. Here’s where things stand.

Aug. 24, 2023

Max Duggan, a seventh-round pick in April, figures to open the season on the practice squad.

Running back (3): Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller

This group has been set since the start of training camp, with the Chargers hoping Kelley and Spiller can provide more consistency and reliability behind Ekeler.

Kelley capped his preseason with a 75-yard touchdown run against the 49ers.

Undrafted free agent Elijah Dotson opened eyes with two long touchdown runs in the preseason opener, but he was never more than a long shot to grab a roster spot.

Fullback (1): Zander Horvath

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New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore likely won’t employ Horvath much on offense, but the second-year pro figures to be a mainstay on special teams. Horvath played 257 kicking-game snaps last year.

Wide receiver (6): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, Keelan Doss

Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston smiles after scoring a touchdown against the Rams on Aug. 12.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Johnston’s development is expected to be a seasonlong story. He displayed potential throughout camp but continued to have issues catching the ball.

Veteran John Hightower opened camp with a series of productive days, making a push for the roster. He then missed time because of injury, and his performance upon returning tailed off.

Doss is expected to occupy the sixth spot while Jalen Guyton, who remains on the physically unable to perform list, continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

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Tight end (4): Gerald Everett, Donald Parham Jr., Stone Smartt, Tre’ McKitty

Entering Parham’s fourth season, his biggest issue has been health. When he’s available, he can be a significant target. But Parham finished camp again not practicing because of an undisclosed injury.

Smartt was solid in camp and the preseason, including a key block Friday night on Kelley’s long touchdown run.

Parham’s uncertain status could open a spot for Hunter Kampmoyer if the Chargers go with four tight ends.

Offensive line (9): Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Jamaree Salyer, Trey Pipkins III, Will Clapp, Foster Sarell, Jordan McFadden, Zack Bailey

If the starting five of Slater, Johnson, Linsley, Salyer and Pipkins can remain intact, the Chargers have the pieces for a formidable front.

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Salyer was limited in practice this week while dealing with an undisclosed injury. His health will be something to monitor in advance of the opener.

The odd man out is Brenden Jaimes, a fifth-round pick in 2021. Jaimes spent most of camp at center, where the Chargers already have Clapp backing up Linsley.

Defensive line (6): Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, Nick Williams, Scott Matlock, Christopher Hinton

Chargers defensive tackle Austin Johnson lines up against the Cleveland Browns in October.
(Kirk Irwin / Associated Press)

Coming back from a knee injury, Johnson passed his physical and returned to practice last week. On Tuesday, he took part in full team drills for the first time, another significant step.

It appears Otito Ogbonnia will start the season on the PUP list because of a knee injury that ended his 2022 season in Week 10. That opens a spot for Hinton, a player the Chargers really like.

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Williams, a ninth-year veteran signed in free agency, provides experience and depth at a position that grew awfully thin at times last season.

Edge rusher (4): Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Tuli Tuipulotu, Chris Rumph II

The Chargers traded for Mack in March 2022 with visions of pairing him with Bosa to form a dynamic pass-rushing duo. Those visions never really came to be as injuries limited Bosa to 165 defensive snaps.

Tuipulotu is a promising rookie rusher with speed and athleticism. Rumph, a fourth-round pick in 2021, had his most impressive camp to date, suggesting he could be ready for a more productive season.

Chargers backup quarterback Easton Stick struggled during a 22-17 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints, but he managed to show some comeback fight.

Aug. 20, 2023

Linebacker (5): Eric Kendricks, Kenneth Murray Jr., Amen Ogbongbemiga, Nick Niemann, Daiyan Henley

Kendricks and Murray are the starters while the other three inside linebackers are forecast to be important special teamers. Ogbongbemiga led the Chargers in kicking-game snaps last season and Niemann was fourth.

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Henley, a rookie third-round pick, fits the mold of a fast, physical and athletic player who can excel covering and protecting on punts.

Cornerback (5): J.C. Jackson, Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr., Ja’Sir Taylor, Deane Leonard

Jackson’s healthy return on the outside opposite Davis gives the Chargers the option of playing Samuel inside, which is probably their most effective alignment in the secondary.

With Jackson rehabilitating a knee injury, Taylor spent much of the summer at the slot corner position. But Samuel provided more consistency there in training camp and remains the team’s best playmaker in the back end.

Safety (5): Derwin James Jr., Alohi Gilman, JT Woods, Raheem Layne, Mark Webb Jr.

Chargers safety Derwin James takes part in training camp in July.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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The Chargers have one of the NFL’s best in James and a reliable starter in Gilman. Woods finished camp and the preseason strong as the Chargers continue to develop the 2022 third-rounder.

If Woods can remain on a promising path, the depth concerns at this position become much less prominent.

Specialists (3): K Dustin Hopkins, P JK Scott, LS Josh Harris

Punter Scott and long snapper Harris arrived at camp with no challengers at their positions and did nothing to cause the Chargers to reconsider.

Hopkins, conversely, had to battle fellow kicker Cameron Dicker while also fighting his way through an undisclosed injury that cost him practice time. In the end, the expectation here — going against what seems to be the overwhelming consensus — is the Chargers will opt for the more experienced option.

Then again, Hopkins has had a difficult time staying healthy over the last 10 to 11 months. So…

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Practice squad (16, plus roster exception for international player CJ Okoye): quarterback Duggan, edge rushers Brevin Allen, Andrew Farmer and Carlo Kemp, safety AJ Finley, cornerbacks Cam Brown, Matt Hankins and Tiawan Mullen, wide receivers Terrell Bynum and Hightower, defensive linemen Jerrod Clark and Okoye, offensive linemen Jaimes and Austen Pleasants, running back Dotson, linebacker Mikel Jones and tight end Kampmoyer.

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