The Los Angeles Chargers are sitting comfortably with a 6-2 record heading into their Week 10 matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Clicking on all cylinders, the Bolts have been one of the more consistent teams on the offensive side of the ball thanks to the dynamic passing of Philip Rivers and the successful ground and pound running game of Melvin Gordon.
The Chargers defense might not be perfect following a 25-19 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, but several positions have been thriving in recent weeks. Gus Bradley’s secondary took a hit early on this season with the season-ending loss of cornerback Jason Verrett to a torn Achilles, but thanks to the likes of Casey Heyward, Desmond King and potential Rookie of the Year Derwin James, they’ve managed to stay active in coverage.
Denzel Perryman might be in a contract year, but the 25-year-old linebacker is doing everything in his power to earn his next payday in the coming months. The former Hurricane has collected 51 total tackles along two pass deflections and an interception.
The defensive line might now wow you with their overall stats, but have improved in recent weeks. Issac Rochell and Melvin Ingram have been consistent pass rushers, collecting seven total sacks between them this season.
Brandon Mebane currently is doing his part stuffing the run with four tackles per loss while Corey Luiget is making up for lost time with his 17 tackles in just four games.
But pass rush still is a glaring issue that needs to be addressed quite soon if Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa is expected to miss more time. Once considered the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, the former first-round standout has yet to make an appearance this season for the Bolts defense.
”I know he’s getting better,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “He’s doing more football functional things. We’ll just take it day-by-day and see where he ends up at the end of the week.”
Getting better and being active are two very different things. The Chargers are looking to make a run at the AFC West title against the Kansas City Chiefs and won’t be able to sniff Patrick Mahomes without their double-digit sack artist.
Which bring the question to mind; should Chargers general manager Tom Telesco consider signing former Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin?
Irvin was released from Oakland thanks to yet another move made by coach Jon Gruden earlier this weekend. Following Monday’s 24 hour waiver period, Irvin is now a free agent and will have the ability to sign with any team without them paying the rest of his $3.8-million contract.
There are reasons on both sides of the argument on why Irvin could be a natural fit or nightmare for Bradley’s defense. Neither side is entirely wrong, but both sides also bring a fair share of doubts to the table.
Looking at the positives, Irvin would address a glaring area of need; pass rush. Irvin, 31, was known for his ability both in Seattle and Oakland to wreak havoc and disrupt a quarterback in the backfield. While he may have never reached a double-digit sack season, the former West Virginia star was consistent at making his presence known on the offensive line and against pass protection.
The Chargers currently are tied for 14th in the league for total sacks with 22 total on the year. No player has more 4 1/2 sacks as Ingram finally has come into his own after a slow start. Irvin had three sacks with the Raiders before his release. With games against weak offensive lines such as Denver, Arizona, and Cincinnati, Irvin could add some pressure to the Bolts front seven.
There’s also his versatility. While playing defensive end this year for the Raiders front seven, Irvin thrived in Seattle as the team’s SAM backer, another area of need for the Chargers defense. As an off-ball linebacker, Irvin collected a career-high eight sacks when his hand wasn’t in the dirt.
This season along with three sacks, the hybrid defender has collected six tackles and four quarterback hits. Should Bosa return, Irvin could return to his former position and perhaps give the Chargers a strong three-man pass rush with the third-year defensive end and Ingram on the corners.
The final thing is the timing. With Los Angeles set to play his former squad this weekend, Irvin could have some fun a revenge style game, taking a shot at not just Derek Carr, but also the organization that thought he was no longer able to be a solid contributor to a terrible team.
There are several negatives though when looking at Irvin for the future. For starters, his production has rapidly declined this season. Following a 58-tackles, eight-sack season last year, Irvin has seen his sack numbers splice in half along with his total number of tackles fall below the single digit line. Granted, while perhaps to the full-time move to defensive end has something to do with it, that would lead to questions about his long-term durability on the field.
Much like Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Dante Fowler, Irvin could be the clone for Bradley just in a different position. Fowler was never able to thrive as a stand-up pass rusher while Bradley was calling the shots for the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2016. Similar to Fowler with his attack and set off the edge, should Irvin have to play as a defensive end, there’s no guarantee he will find success for Bradley as either a nine or five technique.
Finally, location plays a role as well. The 31-year-old Atlanta native might be ready to call it a career sooner rather than later. The Falcons have dealt with plenty of significant defensive injuries and still are in contention to perhaps pull out a wild-card spot with their current 4-4 record.
With the knowledge of his former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme along with perhaps taking a hometown discount, Atlanta could persuade Irvin to come home and finish his career inside the dome as a Dirty Bird.
In the end, the Chargers must consider all their options for a pass rush moving forward. If Bosa is expected to miss more than one more week, Irvin could be a great addition for the Chargers defensive front. With his knowledge and experience with Bradley’s defense, so long he plays the SAM role, Irvin could help the Chargers win the AFC West.
For the right price, Telesco would be foolish not to offer him a contract. But pricing is essential no matter what the team elects to do. Similar to how the Chargers signed free safety Tre Boston to a “prove it” contract, that should be the game plan when addressing Irvin.
Irvin could scoff at the offer and find himself a new home, but hey, at least Telesco was willing to a take a risk. Sometimes even those risks show confidence a GM has in building their roster to jump into “win-now” mode. For Telesco’s sake, just making the phone call should keep Chargers fans off his back for a week.
Irvin might no longer be an elite pass rusher, but he still can contribute to playoff caliber defense for the rest of the season. For Bolts fan sake, hopefully, the defender is looking to sign with a team that plays his former franchise.
He’s coming for blood out, and the silver and black uniforms should be his primary target to take down.