The Chargers have long had one of the best edge-rushing tandems in the NFL with the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That type of talent on the outside really helped make up for a lack of true impact along the interior, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore heading into the 2021 season.
Ingram is a free agent and it’s not looking good for a potential return later in the offseason. Bosa is THE guy on the front lines with Uchenna Nwosu looking like he’ll finally get his shot to be the starting guy opposite the Big Bear. Kyler Fackrell also looks to factor into the rotation quite a bit, as well.
But the interior still holds plenty of uncertainty. Fan-favorite Linval Joseph isn’t getting any younger while the youth at the position behind him — Jerry Tillery and Justin Jones — haven’t lived up to either of their draft slots, as of yet.
The investment in Linval Joseph is already paying dividends for the Chargers up front. Gonna be difficult for teams to focus so much attention on Bosa and Ingram when he's making plays like this. Well deserved flex! pic.twitter.com/czItVb6AFu— Guilty As Charged Podcast (@GACPodcast17) September 17, 2020
And did I mention the depth along the interior? Because there really isn’t any. The Chargers signed former Bengals and Cowboys tackle Christian Covington last month and while he provides legitimate talent in a rotation, that’s really it.
It’s with this all of this in mind that you can understand why the Chargers would come in so low on Pro Football Focus’ rankings of the league’s defensive line units. To be specific, the Bolts came in at 20th, right behind the Colts and just ahead of the Ravens.
“Joey Bosa may be the best non-Aaron Donald pass rusher in the NFL,” says author Ben Linsey. “His 22.0% pass-rush win rate since entering the league in 2016 is second to only Donald (23.4%). Bosa’s rate was even higher last season (23.5%) than his career average. Aside from that one-man wrecking crew, this defensive line has clear concerns heading into 2021. Jerry Tillery has been the least valuable defensive lineman in the NFL over the past two seasons, worth -0.22 wins above a replacement-level player over that span. Los Angeles will hope new head coach Brandon Staley can get the most out of the former first-round pick.”
I’m sure there are plenty of people who think this is low for the Chargers, but I’d argue those people are leaning too much on the potential or expected breakouts of guys like Tillery and Jones. We heard that song and dance last offseason and nothing was delivered in their second and third seasons, respectively. Right now, I think it’s justified to be low on both guys in the current moment while also being justified in believing the best is yet to come for each of them.
If Brandon Staley is who we all think he is, then there’s nothing to fret about the Bolts being low on an offseason list like this. Let the offseason happens as it may and keep your hopes high for when things get underway in September.