Los Angeles Chargers Depth Chart: Who will start at running back?

Following an intriguing 2021 NFL Draft, what is the Los Angeles Chargers depth chart heading into training camp? Let’s take a look at the depth chart as it stands and which NFL players could be looking to secure starting spots.

Los Angeles Chargers Depth Chart

Let’s take a look at the Chargers depth chart as it stands heading into the offseason programs.

Offense

Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree, Darius Bradwell

Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Tyron Johnson, K.J. Hill, Joe Reed, Jason Moore, John Hurst

Tight End: Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre’ McKitty, Stephen Anderson, Hunter Kampmoyer, Matt Sokol

Offensive Tackle: Rashawn Slater, Bryan Bulaga, Trey Pipkins, Storm Norton, Darius Harper, Ryan Hunter, Kyle Spalding, Austin Proehl

Offensive Guard: Matt Feiler, Oday Aboushi, Brenden Jaimes, Nate Gilliam, Tyree St. Louis 

Center: Corey Linsley, Scott Quessenberry

Defense

Nose Tackle: Linval Joseph, Frederick Smith Jr., Jared Goldwire, Forrest Merrill

Defensive Line: Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Christian Covington, Joe Gaziano, Cortez Broughton, Breiden Fehoko

EDGE: Joey Bosa, Kyler Fackrell, Uchenna Nwosu, Chris Rumph II,  Jessie Lemonier

Linebacker: Kenneth Murray, Kyzir White, Drue Tranquill, Emeke Egbule, Nick Niemann, Cole Christiansen, Amen Ogbongbemiga

Cornerback: Chris Harris, Michael Davis, Tevaughn Campbell, Asante Samuel Jr., Donte Vaughn, Brandon Facyson, John Brannon, Ryan Smith, Kemon Hall

Safety: Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb, Ben DeLuca

Special Teams

Kicker: Mike Badgley, Tristan Vizcaino, Alex Kessman

Punter: Ty Long, Lachlan Edwards

Long Snapper: Cole Mazza, Ryan Langan

Chargers Depth Chart Analysis | Offense

Which positions on the Chargers depth chart are available when it comes to the offense?

Quarterbacks

While his career started under the most unusual of circumstances, there is one thing that is certain — the Chargers have a superstar in the making with Justin Herbert. As a rookie, Herbert lit the NFL on fire.

Herbert set new benchmarks for rookies with the most passing touchdowns (31), total touchdowns (36), completions (396), 300-yard games (8), and games with multiple passing touchdowns (10) in NFL history.

Following Tyrod Taylor’s departure in free agency, the Chargers signed Chase Daniels to bolster their depth chart. Daniels, 34, has made five starts over his career, throwing 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on 261 career attempts. Daniel provides a veteran presence to a young QB room. Third QB, Easton Stick, has played just two snaps in his NFL career, completing his one pass attempt for 4 yards.

Running Backs

Although his season was shortened due to a severe hamstring injury, Austin Ekeler was one of the NFL’s best when on the field. Ekeler averaged 4.6 yards per carry en route to 530 yards on the ground as the lead back. He also caught 54 of 66 targets for 403 yards and scored 3 total touchdowns in his 10 appearances. Ekeler could be in line for career-high touches this season as the unquestioned leader of the backfield.

With Ekeler out of the lineup, the Chargers deployed several running backs to fill the void. One of which was Justin Jackson, who set a new career-high in carries (59) and yards (270) but failed to find the end zone. He will enter camp in a position battle with Joshua Kelley and rookie Larry Rountree for the RB2 role on the Chargers’ depth chart following Kallen Ballage’s signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kelley started 2020 as a complement to Ekeler. He saw 47 touches in his first three games but saw his work dwindle thanks to Ballage and Jackson. Kelley ended the season with 502 total yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 games with a healthy scratch in two of the final four games. Rountree comes out of Missouri having had 746 carries for 3,720 yards, with 40 touchdowns. He also added 47 receptions, including 15 receptions for 100 receiving yards in his senior season.

Wide Receivers

Despite high-level production year after year, Keenan Allen somehow does not get the credit he deserves. Herbert’s favorite target, Allen, appeared in 14 games, catching 100 passes (147 targets) for 992 yards and 8 touchdowns. He came up just 8 yards short of his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season, a streak we should see returning in 2021.

When available, Mike Williams can be a devastating option on Los Angeles’ offense. A deep-play specialist and red-zone threat, the only thing holding Williams back are injuries. Although he only missed one game, Williams was banged up all season, including a sprained AC joint suffered at the end of camp that was initially reported to require a three-to-four-week recovery. Still, Williams recorded his third-straight 40+ reception season (48) with 756 yards and 5 touchdowns. Expect Williams to put it all together in 2021 after an entire offseason with Herbert.

WR3 on the Chargers’ depth chart is an interesting spot and will assuredly be a talking point over the offseason. Currently, Jaylen Guyton is penciled in to fill the role as a third-year pro. Guyton finished the year strong with 28 receptions for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns across 16 games.

Tyron Johnson enjoyed a successful second season while never playing on more than 80% of the offensive snaps. In 12 games, Johnson corralled 20 receptions for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns. He will likely compete with rookie addition Josh Palmer. Palmer finished his college season with 33 receptions for 475 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.

Tight Ends

Although the Chargers saw significant additions to their depth chart, they were hit by a massive loss in TE Hunter Henry, who signed with the Patriots. To replenish the talent at the position, the Chargers signed veteran Jared Cook. On a one-year deal worth up to $6 million, Cook is still one of the better tight ends despite being 34 years old. Since 2011, Cook has generated over 500 yards in eight seasons while scoring 40 touchdowns.

Sure, you can teach fundamentals and schemes, but you can’t teach 6’8″. The former XFL standout Donald Parham ended his first season in the NFL with 10 receptions for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns. Given the tight end position is arguably one of the most difficult to learn, Parham could see an increased role next season as he becomes more familiar with the offense.

In the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Chargers added Tre’ McKitty, who played the 2020 season with Georgia after spending three years with Florida State. His college numbers are underwhelming, but the Chargers will hope he can develop into a starting tight end in the 2022 or 2023 seasons.

Offensive Tackle

Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers had a hole on their depth chart at offensive tackle. They addressed that in the first round with the selection of Rashawn Slater.

The rookie OT will have the chance to start at left tackle in 2021. However, Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline views Slater as more likely to play guard long-term in the NFL. If that is the case, the Chargers could find themselves looking to address this position again next offseason.

Bryan Bulaga is adequate when on the field, but that was also the issue in 2020. Knee, back, and foot injuries, along with an illness, shortened Bulaga’s first season in Los Angeles. He started 10 games last year but failed to finish five of those outings. He still has two more years remaining on a three-year, $30 million contract.

Trey Pipkins has made 26 appearances at tackle over his two-year career with the Chargers, making eight starts. His 49% snap share in 2020 more than doubled his rookie total. Pipkins likely starts the season in a rotational role, but he should have the opportunity to challenge Slater in camp.

Offensive Guard

Addressing the offensive line was a focus of the Chargers’ offseason, and one of the significant moves was the addition of Matt Feiler. Feiler spent last season playing guard, but most of his career has been at tackle. Feiler can slide back out and adds versatility to the offensive line as injury protection.

Additionally, the Chargers signed Oday Aboushi, who will compete for a starting spot on the interior. Aboushi started in eight games last season for the Detroit Lions while playing on 59% of the snaps — the most since 2014.

Fifth-round selection Brenden Jaimes should have a chance to compete for one of those coveted starting roles. He will at the very least be looking to hold off Nate Gillam and Tyree St. Louis for the reserve spot.

Center

Offensive line additions keep coming, as protecting Herbert is a priority. Agreeing to a five-year, $62.5 million contract, Corey Linsley leaves the frozen tundra of Lambeau for sunny SoCal. Now the highest-paid center in the league, Linsley cashed in after earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2020.

Scott Quessenberry can play both center and guard for the Chargers and saw a large snap percentage in 2019 when filling in for the retired Mike Pouncey. Quessenberry could easily start the season at guard if the Chargers do not feel comfortable with the other options at the position.

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