clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chargers PFF 2023 Recap: Defensive Interior

We’re taking a look at the defensive side of the trenches.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, I recapped the performance of the Chargers offensive line group with the help of Pro Football Focus’ grades. Today, we’re diving in to the defensive interior.

This group underwhelmed this past season mainly due to a number of injuries that ravaged the group early and often. There was one bright spot however in a first-year Charger, but unfortunately standing out in this group isn’t all that impressive.

Let’s go ahead and see what the numbers tell us about this year’s group of defensive hogmollies.

*(Grades from Pro Football Focus. Ranks among position groups with minimum 600 snaps played in 2022. “Defensive stops” are tackles by the defender that end in a “failure” for the offense.)

DT Sebastian Joseph-Day

  • Games started: 16
  • Snaps played: 728
  • Overall season grade: 51.0 (44th out of 48th)
  • Run defense grade: 48.2 (41st)
  • Pass rush grade: 50.8 (48th)
  • Sacks: Three (T-41st)
  • Pressures: 20 (T-43rd)
  • Penalties: Two
  • Defensive stops: 33 (14th)

Joseph-Day was a defensive leader for the Chargers in 2022 and he’ll be looked upon again to do the same next season. Per his PFF grades, Joseph-Day had his worst season as a pro. His overall grade was his worst mark by over 10.0 points and his run defense grade was his worst by almost 14.0.

Despite those numbers, SJD still finished with the 14th most defensive stops among 48 qualifying defensive tackles. If that tells us anything, he still made his fair share of plays to help keep offenses behind the chains.

Injuries and inconsistencies surrounding him all season probably didn’t help his play, either. If the injury bug can be kept at bay in 2023, I expect a nice bounce back performance in year two with the Chargers.

DT Austin Johnson

  • Games started: Eight
  • Snaps played: 287
  • Overall season grade: 55.9
  • Run defense grade: 52.4
  • Pass rush grade: 62.0
  • Sacks: One
  • Pressures: Seven
  • Penalties: One
  • Defensive stops: 15

Johnson played his role well in the eight games he was healthy before sustaining a season-ending injury. He was never going to be a flashy player but he helped the run defense start well aside from that frustrating streak of five or so games where the Chargers allowed a run of 45+ yards.

In what will be his age-29 season, Johnson should be right back in the starting lineup next to Joseph-Day. In an offseason that will require the Chargers to make some cuts to get under the cap, moving on from Johnson would incur roughly $6 million in dead money, so the smarter move is keeping him for the final year of his contract.

DT Morgan Fox

  • Games started: 12
  • Snaps played: 615
  • Overall season grade: 63.6 (32nd)
  • Run defense grade: 50.4 (38th)
  • Pass rush grade: 69.6 (24th)
  • Sacks: 6.5 (12th)
  • Pressures: 42 (14th)
  • Penalties: One

Fox was a huge breathe of fresh air for the Chargers in 2022. His ability to rush the passer from the interior is something the team hasn’t had in years which really helped mitigate the since of loss from the injuries sustained by the position.

It’s always good to see a new player record a career-best season with your team and I’m stoked to see Fox possibly build on those numbers next season.

DT Otito Ogbonnia

  • Games started: Zero
  • Snaps played: 138
  • Overall season grade: 43.2
  • Run defense grade: 41.9
  • Pass rush grade: 49.8
  • Sacks: Zero
  • Pressures: Four
  • Penalties: Zero

Expectations were low for Ogbonnia as a fifth-round draft pick who was expected work behind two new free agents signed at his position. Ogbonnia’s snap count slowly grew over the first half of the season and overall, he was a solid rotational player for the Bolts. Quietly, the rookie did his job and avoided being the center of any huge gaffe by the defense.

I’d like to see him grow as a pass rusher prior to his sophomore season, but overall I’m pleased with his first year with the Chargers.

DT Breiden Fehoko

  • Games started: Three
  • Snaps played: 308
  • Overall season grade: 49.2
  • Run defense grade: 50.0
  • Pass rush grade: 47.5
  • Sacks: Zero
  • Pressures: One
  • Penalties: One
  • Defensive stops: 11

Fehoko saw his snap count rise swiftly due to injuries at the position. He ended up starting three games was part of the team’s resurgent defensive performance down the final stretch of the regular season.

I like his progression from year one to year two and I expect him to take another step forward this offseason.

DL Joe Gaziano

  • Games started: Zero
  • Snaps played: 308
  • Overall season grade: 41.2
  • Run defense grade: 31.3
  • Pass rush grade: 65.1
  • Sacks: One
  • Pressures: Four
  • Penalties: Zero
  • Defensive stops: Five

Gaziano got some more play near the end of the season where he was finally able to record his first career sack against the Titans in week 14.

The former 2020 undrafted free agent has been able to stick around the Chargers due to his versatility up front. I don’t think he’ll ever be more than a practice squad body with the Chargers but the team could do a lot worse for depth. As a guy who has the school record for sacks at a Big Ten school, he’ll always be of interest to the coaching staff.