Brandon Staley addresses Chargers 53-man roster

Brandon Staley discussed the thought process around their 53-man roster plus key battles and injuries.

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Wednesday was the first opportunity to speak to Chargers head coach Brandon Staley after the team’s moves to finalize their 53-man roster.

First order of business: rookie linebacker Daiyan Henley had an interception last Friday but sustained an injury. Staley called it a hamstring injury and wouldn’t give a timetable.

Henley hasn’t practiced. More will be known next Wednesday when the official injury report comes out.

On Wednesday, the Chargers decided to claim linebacker Tanner Muse, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers waived. Muse is athletic and can help on special teams.

“I did a lot of work on him coming out of Clemson,” Staley explained. “Our special teams coaches, [Special Teams Coordinator] Ryan Ficken and [Assistant Special Teams Coach] Chris Gould, were really high on him, as well as our pro scouting department. Those two sides came together, and we felt like he’d be a good fit to really help us on special teams.”

Since Staley arrived in 2021, the special teams unit has been on the rise and is considered one of the best in the league. To claim Muse, they waived fullback Zander Horvath. They hope to add him to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed.

When the 53-man roster came out, the biggest surprise was that they kept two undrafted free agents. Running back Elijah Dotson made some noise during the preseason game against the LA Rams.

“I think that he can see the game,” Staley said. “When he sees it, there’s a burst through the hole. You feel the physicality. We think he can break tackles to create explosive runs.”

Lastly, a big surprise was when undrafted free agent AJ Finley made the roster. It is a bigger shock that he made it over Mark Webb, a former seventh-round draft pick.

“It was it was really close on Mark and AJ,” Staley said. “Just felt like AJ, developmentally, was the right guy to be choosing with this process. We just felt like he showed a lot as a rookie that we didn’t want to lose.”

So what made the Chargers coaching staff choose Finley?

“He’s the commander,” Staley said. “We felt like, for a rookie, he really absorbed the playbook and then applied it. In practice, he was very consistent and making plays. We felt like he’s a very good tackler and brings some size to the position. Just a good prospect to be developing.”

Could they bring Webb back on the practice squad?

“That’s a little bit up in the air right now, but we like Mark [Webb Jr.] as a prospect,” Staley said.

Finley makes it two straight years that an undrafted safety makes the team, with Raheem Layne being the other in 2022.

It will be interesting to see if he gets much playing time, but if he does, the team is confident he can make the impact that earned him a roster spot.

“He’s a quiet guy, but he works hard,” safety Derwin James said. “He doesn’t complain. He made a lot of plays in practice and through training camp.”