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Chargers 90-in-90: DL Joe Gaziano

Entering year three, Gaziano has a chance to carve out a role as a depth piece for a new-and-improved defensive interior.

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 number one prospect in the state and was labeled a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

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.

In his sophomore campaign, saw time in 14 games and recorded his very first professional start. He ended the season with 13 total tackles, including a tackle for loss and a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage.

Basic Info

Height: 6’4
Weight: 280
College: Northwestern
Experience: 2
Years with team: 2

Contract Status

“Joe Gaziano signed a 1 year, $780,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $780,000. In 2022, Gaziano will earn a base salary of $895,000, while carrying a cap hit of $895,000.” - 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

As intelligent as Gaziano is, smarts can only make up for so much when it comes to natural athleticism. He’s not terribly explosive and he lacks bend and flexibility as a pass-rusher. He can win through effort and power, but that’s a tall order in the NFL where the you’ve got to be a certified brick s***house to win consistently through brawn, alone.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2022?

I feel very confident that Gaziano will make this team as a depth player along the defensive interior. The team added expected-starter Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson in free agency but there’s still plenty of rotational spots up for grabs. As of now, the Chargers currently have nine interior defenders on the roster. After the team drafted Otito Ogbonnia in the fifth round, I believe Gaziano has the edge to make the final roster over fellow former UDFA Forrest Merrill. Gaziano can play either three-technique in the base front while Merrill will struggle to see snaps at nose behind the likes of Ogbonnia, Johnson, and Breiden Fehoko.