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Chargers depth chart 2021: Los Angeles’ projected Week 1 starters heading into training camp

The Los Angeles Chargers have a bright future, thanks to the emergence of Justin Herbert as the team’s franchise quarterback. Herbert set numerous rookie records in capturing the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2020, ushering the Chargers into the next era after Phillip Rivers quarterbacked the franchise for the previous 14 years. 

Los Angeles is looking to compete in the AFC West, a division dominated by the Kansas City Chiefs over the past five seasons. The Chargers have the skill position players for Herbert, and improved the offensive line by signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley to a five-year deal and added guard Matt Feiler on a three-year deal. They also selected offensive tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round of the draft. Los Angeles has two of the top playmakers in the division in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, players Herbert will rely on in his sophomore season. 

The Chargers’ defense is a work in progress, but should be improved with Derwin James back from his latest injury. Asante Samuel Jr. was selected in the second round to shore up the secondary, which is expected to be a strength of the unit. 

Will the Chargers compete for a playoff berth in Herbert’s second season? Here’s how Los Angeles stacks up heading into training camp. 

 Rookies denoted by (*)

Offense

The Chargers’ offense has a lot of talent with Herbert heading into Year Two. Their run game should be strong again with Ekeler getting the bulk of the touches, while being spelled by Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley in short-yardage situations. If Ekeler were to go down, Jackson can handle the load as a starting running back. 

Allen and Mike Williams are both big play threats, while Jalen Guyton did some damage in his rookie year as a deep-ball wideout. The Chargers depth at receiver will be tested if Allen or Williams will have to miss games due to injury. Jared Cook will replace the departed Hunter Henry at tight end. 

Slater is expected to start at left tackle in his rookie year, but could easily move inside to guard. Oday Aboushi was a spot starter at guard for the last several seasons, but will get an opportunity to start if Slater is at tackle. If the Chargers move Slater to guard, Trey Pipkins is the leading candidate to start at tackle. Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler, and Bryan Bulaga are locked in on the right side of the offensive line — a much improved unit over last season. 

Defense

Note: The Chargers have a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, with Uchenna Nwosu as the projected starter and Kyler Fackrell as the backup. Chris Harris Jr. is the slot cornerback. 

The Chargers hired defensive mastermind Brandon Staley as head coach, and he brought in Renaldo Hill from Denver as defensive coordinator. The Chargers were lined up in a base 3-4 in minicamp, but Staley showed multiple fronts when he was with the Rams. Joey Bosa is locked down on the edge, while Linval Joseph stays at nose and Justin Jones and Jerry Tillery will battle for playing time at tackle. The Chargers will line up Tillery at the other end spot when Los Angeles goes to a four-man front. 

Drue Tranquell and Kyzir White are the starting inside linebackers for now, while Kenneth Murray takes one of the spots on the outside and will be playing the overwhelming majority of the snaps at any of the linebacker positions. Fackrell will line up on the edge or drop back in coverage based on the front Staley and Hill decide to use. 

Chris Harris Jr. has a starting cornerback spot, as he can play both the outside and the slot. Samuel will battle with Michael Davis and Tevaughn Campbell for one of the starting jobs. James and Nasir Adderley are locked in as the starting safeties.