Depth Chart Projection

The final axe falls on Friday, when the Chargers must trim their roster from 75 down to 53. And because of A.J. Smith's emphasis on bolstering depth this offseason, this will be the most difficult cut-down day of the Norv Turner era. Here is our final projection of what the opening-day roster will look like.

There are a lot of tough-to-swallow cuts in this projection.

RB Jackie Battle was a tough one. His veteran presence would make the Chargers feel more comfortable while Ryan Mathews is on the mend. Also, he has added value on special teams.

Undrafted rookie Michael Harris, who has been the starting left tackle most of training camp, qualifies as a surprise cut. It just makes more sense to go with a veteran backup at left tackle (giving the nod here to Anthony Davis over Mario Henderson), especially given Jared Gaither's back problems.

With Davis in, we give the No. 4 tackle spot to Stephen Schilling for three reasons: 1) he is a better right tackle than Harris; 2) Tyronne Green can play left tackle in a pinch, lessing the need for another blindside protector; and 3) Schilling can also play guard, where Rex Hadnot is the only reserve.

Tough cuts on defense include DT Aubrayo Franklin, ILB Andrew Gachkar and FS Darrell Stuckey. Franklin is an especially tough call, but the Chargers already have two solid nose tackles in Antonio Garay and Cam Thomas. Gachkar and Stuckey helped stabilize the special teams as rookies in 2011, but this is a deeper team and they may get caught up in a numbers game.

Without further ado, here is our final 2012 depth chart projection.

OFFENSE

QB: Philip Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst
RB: Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Curtis Brinkley
FB: Le'Ron McClain, Jacob Hester
LT: Jared Gaither, Anthony Davis
LG: Tyronne Green, Rex Hadnot
C: Nick Hardwick, Dave Molk
RG: Louis Vasquez, Hadnot
RT: Jeromey Clary, Stephen Schilling
TE: Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael, Dante Rosario, Ladarius Green
WR: Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Richard Goodman
WR: Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, Michael Spurlock

DEFENSE

DE: Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes
NT: Antonio Garay, Cam Thomas
DE: Vaughn Martin, Jacques Cesaire
OLB: Jarret Johnson, Melvin Ingram
ILB: Donald Butler, Demorrio Williams
ILB: Takeo Spikes, Jonas Mouton, Bront Bird
OLB: Shaun Phillips, Larry English, Antwan Barnes
CB: Quentin Jammer, Shareece Wright
CB: Antoine Cason, Marcus Gilchrist
SS: Atari Bigby, Brandon Taylor
FS: Eric Weddle, Corey Lynch

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Nate Kaeding
P: Mike Scifres
LS: Mike Windt
KR: Goodman
PR: Royal

Practice Squad: Jarrett Lee, Edwin Baker, Mike Willie, Michael Harris, Damik Scafe, Darryl Gamble, De'Andre Presley, Sean Cattouse



Which bubble players would you keep around? Talk about it in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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