The Los Angeles Chargers bolstered their tight end room by signing Stephen Anderson to the practice squad. In the corresponding move, they released former seventh-round selection, Mark Webb. Anderson was previously with the Chargers from 2019 to 2021, playing a unique role in the Chargers offense. With a brutal loss to the Lions, the Chargers look to add more firepower. So, what does this reunion with Stephen Anderson do for this team?
Stephen Anderson’s Career
Stephen Anderson began his career as an undrafted free agent out of Cal back in 2016. Signing with the Texans, Anderson appeared in 13 games, recording 11 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, not a bad start for an undrafted rookie. Continuing his career in Houston, Anderson has a strong year two. The former Golden Bear set to-this-day career highs in receptions, yards, and yards per reception.
His 25-catch, 342-yard season did not yield an immediate future with any active roster, as he was reverted to the Texans practice squad, then to the New England Patriots practice squad. After a two-year practice squad stint with the Patriots, he gets a tryout from the Los Angeles Chargers, where he makes the practice squad. After playing no games for the Patriots in 2018, and only one appearance for the Chargers in 2019, Stephen Anderson’s time to shine was upon him.
In 2020, Anderson got a niche role in the Chargers offense and yielded strong results setting a career-high offensive grade with an 87.0 grade, which made him fourth in the league in overall grade amongst tight ends. Hoping to continue his success as a strong blocking presence with receiving ability in 2021, Anderson recorded double his receptions from the season prior with 16, seeing more receiving opportunity in the then-Joe Lombardi-led offense.
Unfortunately for Anderson, his time in Los Angeles came to a close after 2021, when he signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2022. He played 134 snaps and recorded career-low grades in nearly every single category. This led Anderson to not have a team pick him up until the Chargers gave him a call, due to the tight end room being “nicked up”.
Stephen Anderson’s Role
Anderson has been an extremely versatile chess piece during his time in the Powder Blues, posting snaps all over the offense in both of his seasons, which were under different offense coordinators. The 6’2 230 athlete ended up playing a lot of different positions but made his money as the “H-Back” in the Chargers offense, which is pretty much a fullback who can move around the formation with more ease.
Stephen Anderson’s Snaps By Position (2020-2021)
Wide – 20
Special Teams – 530
These are all a good amount of snaps in different spots, especially for a tight end who was only brought in to be the Chargers fourth-string contingency plan. As a backfield blocker, Anderson often was the subject to motion to tip off the defense, while also being a very important lead blocker for the running backs behind him.
As an inline tight end, Anderson also showed some prowess as a receiving outlet, giving the Chargers good yards after catch ability, and toughness after the catch. His playstyle is very like Charger’s starting Tight End, Gerald Everett who recently suffered a back injury.
Anderson was a key Special Teamer in his time in Arizona, recording a 90.3 grade which was seventh in the league in 2022 amongst players with 50% of their respective teams special teams snaps. All of this is to say that Stephen Anderson will be called upon frequently in the rest of the season, to show his prowess as a blocker, versatile threat, and experienced leader.
The Roster Domino Effect
With the signing of Anderson to the practice squad, the Chargers released former seventh-round selection Mark Webb, who has been on the roster bubble since his drafting in 2021. The Chargers will obviously need to make more roster changes to include Stephen Anderson in the active roster, which would lead someone to being cut.
A few potential cut candidates:
Elijah Dotson – The Chargers fourth-string running back who has played sparingly on offense.
Stone Smartt – The most likely candidate would be Smartt, as he is currently the team’s TE4, and plays a very similar role to Anderson. Look to see Smartt on the practice squad if he were to be released by the bolts.
An unfortunate wildcard that could be thrown, is the placement of Gerald Everett on injured reserve. Everett did not practice Wednesday, with a back injury, and the Chargers could look to play it safe and place him on injured reserve, opening a roster spot for the aforementioned Anderson.
Last Word on Stephen Anderson
The 30-year-old Anderson can and may have to do it all with this struggling Chargers team. It is quite obvious that the Chargers do not particularly need help on offense, but bringing in an experienced veteran who can block, play special teams, and contribute in many different offensive roles, is extremely helpful for a team that has currently a losing record. A former bright spot for former struggling Charger teams could look to help turn this team around.
Main Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports