COSTA MESA, Calif. -- One of the most productive defensive players for the Los Angeles Chargers will have to again fight for time on the playing field come the 2018 season.
A fifth-round selection by the Chargers in the 2017 draft, Iowa defensive back Desmond King worked his way onto the field as the slot defender during his rookie season and proved very effective.
King played 676 defensive snaps last year, finishing with four sacks, 76 tackles and an interception returned 90 yards for a touchdown.
King’s four sacks tied him with Rodney Harrison (1997 and 1998) for the second-most sacks by a defensive back in a single season in team history. Harrison tops the list with six in 2000.
However, with a healthy Jason Verrett expected to return this offseason, Trevor Williams will likely move inside to slot defender.
King could have earned a regular role at free safety with the departure of Tre Boston in free agency, but with the Chargers selecting Derwin James in the first round of this year’s draft, the Florida State product standout is penciled in at that position.
That leaves King and the Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley again finding a spot for one of the team’s best playmakers.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said he’s not concerned, and that everything will work itself out.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Telesco said. “I think Desmond King can do a lot of different things, but you’ve got to line up and cover people in this league. So the more [corners], the better. We’ll get it figured out.”
That said, here’s a first look at the team’s 90-man roster.
CHARGERS’ CURRENT ROSTER (88 players)
Starter -- Philip Rivers. Reserves -- Cardale Jones, Geno Smith, Nic Shimonek.
The skinny: It should be an interesting competition between Jones and Smith for the backup job that likely will come down to who performs best during exhibition play. Shimonek replaced Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech last season and is an interesting developmental prospect.
Running backs (7)
Starter -- Melvin Gordon. Reserves -- RB: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Russell Hansbrough, Detrez Newsome. FB: Derek Watt, Anthony Manzo-Lewis.
The skinny: Something to keep in mind -- the Chargers averaged 37 passes and 19 runs during the team’s 0-4 start. During the team’s final stretch, when they won nine of their last 12 games, the Chargers averaged 34 passes and 29 runs a game. The Chargers want to create more balance and run the ball more effectively, particularly at the end of games.
Starters -- Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams. Reserves -- Mike Williams, Geremy Davis, Andre Patton, Artavis Scott, Dylan Cantrell, J.J. Jones, Kent Shelby.
The skinny: Patton and Scott were on the practice squad last season and have a shot to work their way onto the back end of the roster in 2018. Led by Allen, receiver is one of the strongest position groups on the roster. With Nick Sirianni’s departure to the Indianapolis Colts as that team’s offensive coordinator, Phil McGeoghan takes over as the Bolts’ new receivers coach.
Tight ends (6)
Starter -- Hunter Henry. Reserves -- Virgil Green, Sean Culkin, Braedon Bowman, Cole Hunt, Ben Johnson.
The skinny: Antonio Gates is not on the roster for the first time since 2003, which means that Henry will assume the role as the Chargers’ main pass-catching tight end. Culkin has a chance to earn a more impactful role with Gates and Sean McGrath gone.
Offensive linemen (16)
Starters -- LT Russell Okung, LG Dan Feeney, C Mike Pouncey, RG Forrest Lamp, RT Joe Barksdale. Reserves - C Spencer Pulley, T Michael Schofield, T Sam Tevi, G Donavon Clark, T Brett Boyko, C-G Scott Quessenberry, T Zach Crabtree, T Trenton Scott, C-G Cole Toner, G Zack Golditch, T Chris Durant.
The skinny: The addition of Pouncey, along with second-year pros Feeney and Lamp at guard, should make the Chargers a more effective running team. However, overall depth at the tackle position is a concern.
Defensive linemen (14)
Starters -- DE Joey Bosa, DT Darius Philon, NT Brandon Mebane, LEO Melvin Ingram. Reserves -- DT Corey Liuget, NT Damion Square, DE Isaac Rochell, LEO Chris Landrum, DT Justin Jones, DE Whitney Richardson, DT Bijhon Jackson, Steven Richardson, DE Albert Havili, DE Tevin Lawson.
The skinny: Like receiver, defensive line is one of the strongest position groups on the team. The addition of Jones adds depth to the interior of the defensive line. Along with Philon, two young defensive linemen to watch for are Rochell and Whitney Richardson.
Starters -- SAM Kyle Emanuel, MIKE Hayes Pullard, WILL Denzel Perryman. Reserves -- ILB Nick Dzubnar, SAM Uchenna Nwosu, WILL Jatavis Brown, WILL Kyzir White, MIKE D’Juan Hines.
The skinny: This group should have one of the more interesting position battles at outside linebacker between Emanuel and Nwosu. The Chargers have much better speed and athleticism at linebacker after the draft.
Starters -- Jahleel Addae, Derwin James. Reserves -- Adrian Phillips, Jaylen Watkins, Rayshawn Jenkins, A.J. Hendy
The skinny: King likely will get reps here as well, as the Chargers try to figure out how to get the best 11 defenders on the field. We should see a lot of experimentation with rotations during offseason work and training camp.
Starters -- Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett. Reserves -- Trevor Williams, Desmond King, Craig Mager, Michael Davis, Jeff Richards, Tony Brown, B.J. Clay, Marcus Edmond, Brandon Facyson.
The skinny: Corner is the deepest position group on the roster, with two Pro Bowlers in Hayward and Verrett. This talented group provides flexibility for the rest of the defense, with an ability to play man, zone and combo coverages with the same level of competence.
Special teams (6)
Starters -- [K] Caleb Sturgis, [P] Drew Kaser, [LS] Mike Windt. Reserves -- [K] Roberto Aguayo, [P] Shane Tripucka, [LS] Anthony Kukwa.
The skinny: Lynn created competition at all three special-teams positions during the offseason, so everyone is under pressure to perform. But because of the contract he signed, Sturgis is likely the front-runner to earn the kicker job.