The Los Angeles Chargers can’t seem ever to catch a break. While Anthony Lynn’s offense is thriving under a rejuvenated Philip Rivers, the defense just hasn’t been able to remain at the same level. Sure, the unit is playing well throughout their six-game win streak, but injuries have been a major concern all season for the Bolts and their long-term success.
Monday’s news of the season-ending injury to linebacker Denzel Perryman hasn’t helped change the narrative of what the Chargers defense has probably heard all season. While Perryman’s 51-tackle season might not have been what many fans were hoping for from a player entering a contract year, his leadership skills and knowledge of the defense will be sorely missed.
”Denzel is the starter for a reason,” Lynn said via Chargers.com. “Our rush defense is a lot better with Denzel in there. We want to pick it up collectively as a group now.”
Third-year outside linebacker Jatavis Brown will likely be given the first opportunity to stay up the middle following his solid performance during the team’s 20-6 victory against the Oakland Raiders. Credit is due for Brown’s contributions last Sunday as he graded out as one of the top linebackers from PFF’s team of the week.
But Brown has been inconsistent all season, and one game isn’t going to change the minds of Chargers fans or Lynn right away. With the return of Hayes Pullard and Kyle Emmanuel potentially moving inside, Brown will need to impress during practice and this Sunday against the Denver Broncos to prove that he’s the answer at the team’s MIKE position.
”It’s a next man up mentality,” Lynn said. “We have guys that are on the developmental squad that know our system that we will look at bringing up. We’re going to look at the waiver wire, but we’re going to look within our team first for guys to step up.”
Although the loss of Perryman could hurt the Bolts defense, that’s not the primary concern out in L.A. headed into this week. The ninth-ranked pass rush could actually be considered one of the league’s best this season if they were more consistent at bringing down the quarterback.
There’s a simple way to fix that; get defensive end Joey Bosa back in action to create havoc opposite Melvin Ingram. That’s easier said than done at the moment, however.
Bosa, who has been dealing with a nagging foot injury, once again was inactive against the Raiders on Sunday. Heading into practice this week, Lynn still isn’t wholly convinced that the third-year defensive end is ready to return full-time. He is going through reps during the team’s practice, but Bosa has yet to be active this season.
”We’ll see if [he can practice this week],” Lynn said. “I’m really pleased with the progress that he made last week as far as moving towards getting back on the field, but we’ll see when he’s ready.”
Progress is fine, but the team needs results. While the Bosa era in Los Angeles has been nothing short of spectacular, it has come with some hiccups and mishaps along the way.
After being drafted out of Ohio State, the former third overall selection remained unsigned for the entire preseason. While the deal was reached, Bosa could have put the franchise back several years by electing to sit out the entire 2016 season and re-enter the draft next season.
So far, Bosa has been nothing but stellar for the organization and is looking to become one of Chargers general manager Tom Telesco’s greatest selections during his five-year career. In his first two seasons, Bosa has collected 111 total tackles, 23 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles.
Yes, Bosa has lived up to his four-year, $25.8 million contract throughout his first two seasons but now it’s time for him to return. If he isn’t ready to return there’s another option.
Shut Bosa down for the season, let him properly recover and be ready for the 2019 season. Rushing a player is never a good sign, but the team will have to make a decision soon. Bosa’s roster spot has been inactive for ten weeks now and could be filled by the team making just another daily decision.
”I don’t put expectations on these timelines because I’ve been burned before,” Lynn said. “When those guys are ready, they’re ready.”
Lynn does have a point as protecting his credibility is vital, but a roster spot is on the line. The Chargers defense has already lost one of their team leaders for the season, and they can’t afford to wait for the clock to strike midnight on a second.
While rookie sensation Derwin James has been nothing short of fantastic for the Bolts defense, he still is a rookie. There are plenty of trials he will have to go through down the stretch before he’s ready to take over Bradley’s defense as the commander in chief long-term.
But he may not have the rest of the season to grow. He may need to step into a leadership role tomorrow. Could he do it? Sure. Should he? Let’s say it’s better to have two to tango.
A loss of Bosa would be horrific for the Bolts defense, but not the end of the world for the Chargers organization. The team is still playing well during their winning ways and have a plethora of games that are very winnable on paper. If the offense continues to score consistently, the defense can take a few hits without being knocked out for the count.
If Bosa isn’t ready for Sunday’s game, will he ever be ready this season? Placing him on the injured reserve for the season is a terrible thought, but perhaps the smartest move. It will free up a roster spot and allow Telesco to look at the waiver wire for players who might be able to contribute to Bradley’s 4-3 defense as a rotational role.
The Chargers are in a good place headed down the stretch for a chance at the playoffs come January. They could be in a better one with a more clear-cut answer on Bosa’s return.
”Everybody feels something different, but I feel good about the team,” Lynn said. “I feel good about the men that we have in the locker room — the character that they have. I love the way they work.”
Los Angeles is 7-2 and perhaps the hottest team in the entire league at the moment. They should feel good where they stand. They might feel better with a definitive answer on Bosa’s status.
Let’s ask the question, is Bosa back or is he done for the year? It’s not a hard question. It’s one that’s ready be answered, whether Lynn and the staff would like to admit or not.