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Chargers 90-in-90: DE Joe Gaziano

Gaziano ranks #1 in sacks at Northwestern.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Gaziano had himself quite the career while playing at Xaverian Brothers High School. The Scituate, Massachusetts, native helped lead his team to a 12-0 State Championship season while being named the 2014 Massachusetts Player of the Year after recording 53 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss, and 16 sacks. He was also named the #1 prospect in the state and was labeled a three-star prospect by Rivals.

After captaining the East team in the Semper Fidelis High School All-American Game, Gaziano decided to commit Northwestern over the home state school Boston College, as well as Syracuse and Rutgers.

Gaziano was a four-year contributor for the Wildcats after redshirting during the 2015 season. In his first year of action, he saw zero starts but contributed in all 13 games as a rotational pass-rusher with 24 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

As a sophomore in 2017, Gaziano won a starting job got the nod for all 13 games. He set career-highs with 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks with 35 total stops and two forced fumbles. In 2018, Gaziano was just as impactful with 44 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 7.5 sacks.

Gaziano had far-and-away his best season at Northwestern when he cruised to career-best marks in tackles (49) and a whopping 17 tackles for loss to go with another nine sacks, five pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. His 30-career sacks set the new all-time mark by a Wildcat defender in school history. Following his senior season, Gaziano was invited to play in last year’s Shrine Bowl.

Gaziano went undrafted in 2020 and eventually became one of 19 UDFAs to sign with the Chargers last April. As a rookie, he saw time in three different games and recorded just one tackle.

Basic Info

Height: 6’4
Weight: 280
College: Northwestern
Experience: 1
Years with team: 1

Contract Status

“Joe Gaziano signed a 1 year, $610,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $610,000. In 2021, Gaziano will earn a base salary of $780,000, while carrying a cap hit of $780,000.” - Spotrac.com

The Good

Gaziano left college as his school’s all-time sack leader and that’s only made more notable when you understandable how good the offensive lineman are in the Big Ten Conference. At his size, he can offer versatility on the defensive line as a potential inside-outside player. In Brandon Staley’s defense, he’s likely not an edge player but will find a home at one of the team’s 4i-techniques on either side of Linval Joseph.

The former top prospect in the state of Maryland was lauded by his Northwestern teammates as one of the smartest players on the team. They noted that his success largely stemmed from his mental game as much as his physical ability, which tells me he might be a favorite of Staley’s. After all, Cody Cejda, the guy hired to be Staley’s right-hand man, was a former staff member at Northwestern.

The Bad

Less than stellar athleticism keeps Gaziano pigeonholed to the interior of the line within the new defense. That may not be the end of the world for him, but it would be a bummer if he was hoping to make his living on the outside.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?

I like Gaziano’s chances of making the active roster as a back end player along the defensive front. Following the top three of Joseph, Justin Jones, and Jerry Tillery, I think the final two to three spots are up for grabs between Gaziano, Christian Covington, Breiden Fehoko, and Cortez Broughton. If the Chargers keep six total interior players — a starter and backup for each spot — then I think Gaziano’s chances of sticking around get even better. At the bare minimum, he’s on the practice squad.