Last week, just prior to the end of the NFL’s regular season, Pro Football Focus analyst Dalton Wasserman took to compiling a 2023 All-Rookie Team, comprised of the league’s top-performing first-year players.
As expected, the group was led by a number of players who are already knocking at the door of superstardom such as qurterback C.J. Stroud, wide receiver Puka Nacua, and tight end Sam LaPorta, along with other promising youngsters in running back Devon Achane and defensive tackle Kobie Turner.
But what kind of a promising young group would this be without the best player from the Chargers’ 2023 draft class? That’s right, edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu, the team’s second-round pick a year ago, was named to PFF’s All-Rookie team alongside fellow pass rusher Will Anderson of the Texans.
“Tuipulotu was an outstanding run defender for Los Angeles,” said Wasserman. “His 88.4 PFF run-defense grade not only led all rookies but trailed only Maxx Crosby, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Khalil Mack among qualified edge defenders.”
“He also finished second behind Anderson with 51 pressures. Tuipulotu was an excellent addition to a team that is perpetually trying to fix their defense.”
The Chargers drafted Tuipulotu to help reinforce a pass rush that was a bare cupboard behind Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. While they certainly hit on his ability to get after quarterbacks, they also managed to find an edge rusher with just as much ability in stopping the run, which has been one of the biggest weaknesses on this defense in recent years.
By the end of the regular season, Tuli accumulated 53 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. His tackles for loss total was second on the team while his sack total was fourth behind Mack (17.0), Joey Bosa (6.5), and Morgan Fox (5.5).
With the cap situation looking less-than-ideal this year, I believe the best-case scenario is the Chargers being able to bring back Mack for another season to pair with Tuli as they continue to develop/find another edge rusher to take over. If Mack should find himself wanting to be traded to go chase a ring, or let go due to financial decisions, then that plan at edge rusher all of a sudden needs to be expedited as a rapid rate.
Either way, the Chargers are luckily not going to be without a promising pass rusher should both Mack and Bosa happen to be off the team by next season.