Jerry Tillery is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana and attended Evangel Christian Academy. Believe it or not, Tillery was actually a First-Team All-State offensive lineman while also earning Defensive Player of the Year honors by the Shreveport Times.
With no redshirt to wait through, Tillery saw significant snaps as a true freshman. IN 13 games with three starts, he totaled 12 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and his first collegiate sack. His sophomore included a new starting role for Tillery. In a career-high 11 starts, he recorded 37 tackles and three tackles for loss but no sacks.
As a junior, Tillery started all 13 games and set career-highs across the board with 56 total tackles, nine for loss, 4.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. In his final campaign with the Irish, he totaled 30 tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and three forced fumbles on top of blocking a pair of kicks.
Following his time in South Bend, Tillery earned an invite to that year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl but held out of the event due to a shoulder injury that also limited him throughout the combine and pre-draft process.
After a ton of rehab work, Tillery managed to perform very well at the 2019 NFL Combine with high marks in the 40-yard dash (4.93), broad jump (nine feet, seven inches), and short shuttle (4.33).
Tillery would go on to be drafted by the Chargers with the 28th-overall pick in the 2019. As a rookie, Tillery recorded three totals starts while playing 12 games overall. He ended with a pair of sacks, three tackles for loss, and 17 total tackles.
In 2020, he recorded a career-high three sacks — including the first sack of the season for the Bolts — and three more tackles for loss. He also forced two fumbles and deflected a pair of passes at the line of scrimmage.
College: Notre Dame
Years with team: 2
“Jerry Tillery signed a 4 year, $11,422,158 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a $6,327,024 signing bonus, $10,002,591 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $2,855,540. In 2021, Tillery will earn a base salary of $1,533,378, while carrying a cap hit of $3,115,134 and a dead cap value of $5,824,890.” - Spotrac.com
Tillery came out of Notre Dame as a massive defensive line prospect with good pass-rushing chops. For a guy who recorded four sacks against Stanford — a team known for having one of the better lines in the country — you just knew the potential was massive. His length along the interior was likened to that of Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner, both of whom played major roles for the 49ers en route to their appearance in the Super Bowl two years ago.
He has shown improvement from year one to year two which tells us he’s still getting better. Five sacks in two years is “fine” for a defensive tackle, but fans have higher expectations for the former Golden Domer.
Despite starting 2020 hot out of the gate, Tillery slowly faded throughout the season and when the spotlight did find him, it was usually due to him receiving an unsportsmanlike penalty. He’ll need to clean up is play and overall increase his consistency if he wants to take a step forward under Brandon Staley in 2021.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2021?
Tillery is a lock to make the final 53-man roster as one of the starting three interior defensive linemen in Brandon Staley’s 3-4 front. He’ll play on one side of Linval Joseph while fourth-year player Justin Jones will be on the other. After five sacks through his first two seasons, Tillery is expected to make another leap in year three in a new scheme that will look to play more towards his aggressive nature as a one-gape penetrator instead of a two-gap player. He’ll need to cut down on mental lapses, but he’s still got loads of potential if he can put it all together.