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A post-draft look at the Chargers’ defensive depth chart

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Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

A week ago I posted a post-draft look at what the offensive depth chart looks like at the moment. There were a lot position groups that are seemingly locked-down and should continue to look that way barring any unforeseen events.

When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, I think are a lot more spots up for grabs, especially second and third-string spots.

As things stand, here is the defensive depth chart as of May 27th.

Defensive Tackle

  1. Brandon Mebane
  2. Jerry Tillery
  3. Justin Jones
  4. Damion Square
  5. T.Y. McGill
  6. Cortez Broughton
  7. Reggie Howard

I know Justin Jones was drafted in the third round last year, but I don’t think they would have spent their first round pick on a player that wasn’t going to start right out of the gate. With Corey Liuget not on the team anymore, Tillery’s skillset should slide right in at the penetrating 3-technique next to Brandon Mebane who is the incumbent starter at nose tackle.

In the near future, Jones will likely takeover for Mebane. They are similar in size and Jones offers an athletic upside that Mebane just doesn’t have anymore. Square will continue to be a vital part of the rotation and fill in at just about any spot that needs it.

McGill offers versatility at both spots along the interior while Broughton most likely fits the bill as another rotatonal piece that could end up being the primary back-up to the 3-technique after the first year or two. Howard, a UDFA from Toledo, lacks some ideal mass in the middle but his get-off off the line of scrimmage stood out on tape but he will have an up-hill battle to land on the final 53.

Defensive End

  1. Joey Bosa
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Isaac Rochell
  4. Anthony Lanier
  5. Patrick Afriyie
  6. Chris Peace

The positions behind Bosa and Ingram have been a turnstile over the last few years. Chris McCain was a nice surprise in 2017 but was waived prior to the 2018 season. Last year when Bosa was out due to injury, Square and Rochell split time at the “big end” spot. Behind Ingram, Gus Bradley liked to play around with Uchenna Nwosu and sometimes even used Derwin James on the defensive line towards the start of the season.

Lanier had a nice year with Washington in 2017 when he recorded the first five sacks of his career before his season was cut short. He was then waived/injured by the team soon after. Late last year, he was signed to the Chargers’ practice squad and then promoted to the active roster in December. He offers excellent size at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds and may actually earn some meaningful playing time in 2019. Afriyie was a UDFA last year who found a way to stick around on the practice squad. He fits the Ingram mold more-so than the traditional defensive end but with the plethora of players they mix-and-match on the defensive front, his chances are slim to make the final 53.

Peace is another player that could be a similar player to Ingram but just like Afriyie’s situation, there are far too many players that will earn playing time before he ever would see the field.

Linebacker

  1. Thomas Davis
  2. Denzel Perryman
  3. Jatavis Brown
  4. Kyzir White
  5. Uchenna Nwosu
  6. Drue Tranquil
  7. Nick Dzubnar
  8. Emeke Egbule
  9. Tre’Von Johnson
  10. Kyle Wilson
  11. Elijah Zeise
  12. Josh Corcoran

Not going to lie, I was surprised to see how many linebackers the team has rostered at the moment. It’s crazy to think that the top six spots at this position are pretty much already written in stone. Davis, Perryman, and Brown are likely the starters from day one with White and Tranquil in the rotation from the get-go, as well.

I included Nwosu in the linebacker section because that’s what he is listed under on the team’s roster but we all know he is going to get used around the defense on the edge and off the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nwosu behind Ingram at the LEO spot a bit more this seaosn.

Dzubnar is obviously a beloved member of the special teams core but that’s essentially the only thing keeping him on the roster at this point. He is only capable of playing Mike in this defense and they’ve now got Tranquil to be that guy. Egbule was the team’s selection in the sixth round this year and as of now, he is eerily similar to Nwosu’s build but played a bit more off-ball than edge as opposed to vice-versa for Nwosu.

Johnson, Wilson, Zeise, and Corcoran will all be fighting for spots on the practice squad. Johnson and Wilson have the most experience which will help in this situation. Zeise was a former wideout at Pitt that offers some athletic upside while Corcoran was essentially a defensive end while at NIU. Both will have the hardest time sticking with the team in any facet.

Cornerback

  1. Casey Hayward
  2. Desmond King
  3. Trevor Williams
  4. Michael Davis
  5. Brandon Facyson
  6. Jeff Richards
  7. Arrion Springs
  8. Kemon Hall
  9. Bradford Lemmons
  10. Rodney Randle

It seems like every year Tom Telesco picks up a handful of defensive backs at UDFAs and one or two seem to find their way onto the active roster. For the first time in years, I don’t think any of the defensive backs make the team this year. I believe the top four spot are obviously locked-in and Facyson was a favorite from last year’s UDFA class that fits the mold of the taller, longer corners that the team covets. Richards provides size and experience and likely makes the team as the final corner.

Springs is a versatile back who can play both safety and corner. Of the three UDFAs, I’m torn between Hall and Randle as the dark horse to potentially steal a spot on the final 53. Hall was a top corner in the CUSA last year while Randle apparently ran a sub-4.3 forty at his pro day.

Lemmons is unfortunately just another guy and likely only a camp body at this point.

Safety

  1. Derwin James
  2. Adrian Phillips
  3. Nasir Adderley
  4. Rayshawn Jenkins
  5. Jaylen Watkins
  6. Roderic Teamer
  7. Adarius Pickett

The safety group returns two All-NFL First Team selections in James and Phillips. Seeing how successful Phillips was in a sub-package role as a box defender/linebacker, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him star in that role again in some capacity. The team landed Adderley in the second round who is literally the exact type of player that they needed opposite James. Like...literally. As Daniel Jeremiah said soon after the draft: if you made the perfect compliment to Derwin James in a lab somewhere, it would be Nasir Adderley.

Jenkins and Watkins were pegged to battle it out at the other safety spot if the team had failed to find their guy in the first two rounds but thank god that didn’t need to happen. I like both players, but the team got exactly what they needed. Going forward, I expect Jenkins to play second fiddle to James while Watkins will likely backup Adderley on the back end.

I don’t think the team keeps more than five safeties so guys like Teamer and Pickett will likely be on the outside looking in. It’ll be interesting to see how much they like Pickett, though, as he was the only player from the team’s rookie tryouts to be signed.