Are The Chargers Defensive Tackles The Weak Link To Post Season Success?

Los Angeles Chargers Defensive Line 2019 Training Camp. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | The LAFB Network
Los Angeles Chargers Defensive Line 2019 Training Camp. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | The LAFB Network

The Los Angeles Chargers have set themselves up for a postseason appearance. The pieces appear to be falling in place.

But are the defensive tackles the weak link in this sturdy chain?

Last Year Defensive Statistics

  • Chargers ranked sixth in total defense
  • 18th in rushing yards allowed
  • 21st in red-zone defense
  • 28th in sacks per game
  • 29th on third downs allowed
  • 32nd in takeaways with minus 17 turnover differential


Last season the Chargers defense ranked last in takeaways. They also ranked 23rd in defensive passer rating.

The team had 30 quarterback sacks. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa accounted for 18.5 of the sacks. So, after those two, no one on the team had more than three sacks.

The 2020 Unit


Okay not so much *BREAKING* as this kinda just happened!

The Chargers have re-signed Damion Square. This adds depth and a veteran presence. Last season Square was third in snaps behind Jones and Mebane. Playing mostly nose tackle, Square had 27 tackles, one tackle for loss, and two pass deflections.

Pro Football Focus graded Square out at 63.0 overall for the 2019 season.

The re-acquisition of Square gives the Chargers the needed back-up at nose tackle. But that is not the limit. For his entire seven-year career with the Chargers, Square has been that rotational lineman. Much needed veteran depth at a position that needs to step-up this season.

Cortez Broughton

Selected in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Draft analysis, according to, “Broughton is a gap-shooting three-technique prospect with rotational pass-rusher upside.”

It was a surprise that Broughton made the team. Although he was listed inactive for most of the games in 2019, he did play.

He played in two regular-season contests. In 2019 Broughton had five tackles in those two games seeing 21 defensive snaps. He was rated 64.9 overall according to Pro Football Focus.

What is EXPECTED of Broughton 2020

While it was a surprise that Broughton made the team, he now adds tremendous depth. The Chargers have moved on from Brandon Mebane, and they acquired Linval Joseph.

Look for Broughton to play a back-up rotational role again.

Justin Jones

In the 2019 season, Jones recorded 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. Pro Football Focus graded him 59.2 overall.

Jones played in 52 percent of the defensive snaps. Signed as a run-blocker, he played mostly on running downs.

What is EXPECTED of Jones 2020

Jones drafted in the third round for his ability to stop the run. The Chargers were 25th against the run last season.

Jones is expected to continue to play most of his defensive snaps on run plays, but he will need to improve his play considerably.

Linval Joseph

Joseph was acquired in free agency from the Minnesota Vikings. In 2019 he had 44 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, one forced fumble, six quarterback hits, and three sacks. Pro Football Focus graded him a 71.2 overall for the 2019 season.

What is EXPECTED of Joseph 2020

The coaches are saying, “just be ready to pin your ears back and get after that quarterback.” 

Joseph is expected to play on both run and passing downs. He was acquired to be the veteran presence now the Mebane is gone, and he is here to ensure the Chargers have more than 125 quarterback pressures.

Jerry Tillery

Tillery played in 15 games in 2019. He racked up 17 tackles and two sacks. Pro Football Focus graded him a 35.5 overall grade.

2019 was Tillery’s rookie season, after being drafted 28th overall in the NFL Draft. The draft profile on Tillery indicated he was a run stopper who also had the athletic ability to get after the quarterback.

In his rookie season, he played on 36.3 percent of the defensive snaps.

What is EXPECTED of Tillery in 2020

He needs to get on the field for more than 36.3 percent of the snaps, and he needs to get past being stopped by double teams. If he can accomplish these two tasks, then he can begin working to live up to the hype of being the team’s first-round selection.

And For Depth

  • P.J. Johnson
  • T.J. Smith

Is The Defensive Tackle Position The Weak Link

Yes. Statistically speaking, the defensive tackles are the weakest link. However, you are talking about an eerily good secondary. And then there is the dynamic duo of Bosa & Ingram.

Tillery needs to step up in a major way. The responsibility is for Tillery to play up to his draft status.

And then, of course, there is Joseph. The Vikings were moving on from him last season, and his defensive snaps decreased exponentially after week 13. Will Joseph be able to help with the number one issue the defense had last season, takeaways?

Safety Derwin James has said, “We gotta get the ball. It’s all about the ball.” To which defensive coordinator Gus Bradley added, an emphasis will be placed on pressuring quarterbacks this season. The idea being the offenses are more susceptible to game-changing mistakes when hurried.

So Tillery, Broughton, Jones, Square, and Joseph all need to step up. The defensive tackles are under pressure to put pressure on the quarterback. Think of how much better Bosa and Ingram can be if they get better production from the tackle position?