The LA Chargers defense in 2019 was a middle of the road unit as a whole while still thriving in one specific area: pass defense.
Even for a group that was missing two of its best players in Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, they somehow still managed to finish fifth in passing yards allowed, third in first downs allowed by passing, and tied for eighth in passing touchdowns allowed. They were a bit more pedestrian in run defense, finishing 18th in rushing yards allowed and tied for 21st in rushing scores allowed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Chargers had a fairly good defense despite dealing with injuries and the lack of taking the ball away, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. It’s a big reason why Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton picked the Chargers new defensive additions as the team’s biggest reason for optimism heading into the new season.
“The Los Angeles Chargers had a strong defense before the 2020 offseason, and the front office further strengthened that side of the ball, adding a player to each level of the unit,” says Moton. “The Chargers signed Chris Harris Jr., who will reunite with his former defensive backs coach Ron Milus. They worked together for two seasons in Denver. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph could become an interior glue guy to shore up a run defense that ranked 18th and gave up 15 touchdowns in 2019.”
Linval Joseph is one of those players that will always be underrated to me. His value and role is rarely appreciated. Finished 2nd among DTs in tackles last season (68). pic.twitter.com/v86iY1GLSl— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) May 9, 2018
Aside from Harris Jr. and Joseph, both of whom are far and away the headliners among these additions, the team also signed former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil and drafted Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray with their second of two first-round picks. Both players showed the knack for gobbling up tackles in 2019 while displaying great athleticism for the position. Each will see time at the WILL linebacker spot with Murray also potentially playing a bit of MIKE with sophomore Drue Tranquill.
With high-impact additions to each level of the team’s defense, it’s going to be almost impossible for this defense to do anything but improve. The run defense got a stout presence it hasn’t had in years, the linebacker group added much needed size and athleticism, and the secondary, while already elite, added one of the best defenders from the last decade.
While some teams around the league may have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for any sort of optimism, the Chargers don’t have to look very far for theirs. This defense is must-see television in 2020 and September can’t come soon enough.