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Where Does the Chargers Defense Rank in the AFC West?

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Can the Chargers hold their own defensively in a loaded AFC West?

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers defense seems to be trending in the right direction. Joey Bosa looks to be a franchise piece and Melvin Ingram just signed a long-term extension. There are a few holes that still need to be filled, but the defense doesn’t appear to be a major flaw like it has been in the past.

For years, the AFC West has been headlined by the two powerhouse defenses in Denver and Kansas City. With Von Miller and Justin Houston leading their respective squads to the playoffs nearly every season.

However, the tide appears to be turning as chaos has ensued in Kansas City and the Raiders seem like a Super Bowl contender.

The question still remains, where do the Chargers fit in?

Defensive Line

1. Oakland Raiders

Led by Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards Jr., Oakland’s defensive line is by far the strongest unit on their defense. Mack is an All-Pro level player and has halted drives all by himself.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

An optimistic ranking, but the Chargers defensive line should be better in Gus Bradley’s scheme. Joey Bosa is primed to become an absolute star and Corey Liguet should find more success as he moves inside.

Plus, a healthy Brandon Mebane should do wonders for a team that desperately needs to stop the run.

3. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have a good unit in the trenches. Derek Wolfe is an underrated player and the veteran combo of Domata Peko and Jared Crick should produce. The big addition of second-round pick DeMarcus Walker brings youth to the group.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

After losing Dontari Poe, the Chiefs added Bennie Logan to the mix. He is a serviceable starter, but the team is going to miss Poe’s production. The young duo of Rakeem Nunes-Roches and Chris Jones will have to play extremely well for this unit to have success.

Linebackers

1. Kansas City Chiefs

The return of Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson bring a major boost to this Kansas City defense. Dee Ford played well last season and should be a nice compliment to Houston on the opposite side. There’s also the chance that Tamba Hali has something left in the tank.

2. Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos can get after opposing quarterbacks. Von Miller and Shane Ray are going to be coming off the edge and bringing constant pressure. Denver’s inside linebackers are talented as well with Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis headlining that group.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

Last season, one of the biggest surprises for the Chargers was their linebacker play. Jatavis Brown and Korey Toomer exploded onto the scene and Melvin Ingram had arguably the best season of his career. If this unit can stay healthy, it could be a strength of this defense.

4. Oakland Raiders

Although the Raiders are looking like the favorites in the AFC West, the team still has big issues defensively. It starts with their linebacking corps. Bruce Irvin is a very good outside linebacker, but the rest of the unit doesn’t scare anyone. Cory James, Jelani Jenkins, and Ben Heeney aren’t ideal options.

Cornerbacks

1. Denver Broncos

The tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. is as good as it gets in the NFL. Both of these players are number one corners on almost any other team. It’s a luxury for Denver to have both. They also have Bradley Roby who is a great option as the number three corner.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

To be frank, the Chargers success at this position depends on Jason Verrett’s health. If he can stay on the field, this unit is going to have no problems. Casey Hayward was phenomenal for the Bolts last season and rookie Desmond King should fit right in at slot corner.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Marcus Peters is the leaders of this group for Kansas City. He is a turnover machine and silenced any critics with his play last season. Outside of Peters, the Chiefs could use some cornerback help. Thankfully the Kansas City front seven is so good that the corners haven’t had that much pressure of late.

4. Oakland Raiders

If a team is going to beat the Raiders, they are going to attack their cornerbacks. the Sean Smith signing appears to be a flop and David Amerson is far too inconsistent to be relied on. If this unit has any hope, it lies on the shoulders of first-round pick Gareon Conley.

Safeties

1. Denver Broncos

The tough-nosed duo of Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward put the Broncos in the top spot at this position group. With Harris Jr. and Talib shutting down receivers on the outside, it allows for Denver’s safeties to wreak havoc over the middle and in the running game.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

One of the best safeties in the NFL, Eric Berry carries this unit. His ability to be involved in nearly every play is incredible. Ron Parker is a decent option next to him, but they don’t have the depth that Denver does.

3. Oakland Raiders

It appears that Oakland is going for a youth movement with their safeties. The team drafted Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu in back-to-back drafts. That may be the tandem of the future, but the team still has veteran Reggie Nelson in the mix. It’s a decent unit in Oakland, but the unknown of the two young safeties keeps them lower in the rankings.

4. Los Angeles Chargers

Eric Weddle where are you?

The Chargers safety position is a mess. Probably the worst unit on the team, it is going to be the focus of opposing offenses all season long. The front seven is going to need to take the pressure off of the back end of this defense, or the Chargers will give up big play, after big play.

Overall Ranking

1. Denver Broncos

If Denver wants to return to the postseason, they will be banking on their defense. They have multiple Pro-Bowl caliber players and should continue their recent defensive dominance.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Even with all the headlines in Kansas City, the defense should remain a strength of the team. The return of Houston and Johnson should put them right back in the conversation when it comes to elite defenses.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

With young talent all over the place and a new defensive coordinator, the Chargers may have a solid defense for the first time in forever. The question still looms, can this team stay healthy?

4. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are on the cusp of becoming one of the AFC’s elite teams. The weakness lies with their defense. Is Khalil Mack enough to bring them to the promised land?