Best Defense In West – Denver Broncos Or Los Angeles Chargers?

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Television | Under Creative Commons License
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Television | Under Creative Commons License

So the West is gearing up for a Battle Royale, on the offensive side of the ball. But we all know that it’s the defense that wins Championships. Maybe? And while we acknowledge that Kansas City may have the best offense in the West…right now, who has the best defense?

Defensive Rankings 2019

This is Pro Football Focus rankings for coverage defenses for the 2019 season. The two defenses that did not make the cut…drumroll please:

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders ranked 29th in PFF’s 2019 rankings. They allowed a successful play on 50.8% of their coverage snaps. This is while giving up a quarterback passer rating of 111.3, the second-highest mark in 2019.

Kansas City Chiefs

“The Chiefs’ cornerbacks and safeties scored the league’s ninth-lowest forced incompletion rate at 10.3% while wasting opportunities with seven dropped interceptions, tied for the sixth-most in the NFL.”

The Contenders

We all know that a good secondary depends on a good pass rush.

The Rankings Of Others

PFF ranked the Broncos 10th last season in coverage and the Chargers 11th. But for pass rushers,

#4 Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram

Honorable Mention Von Miller & Bradley Chubb

#2 Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram

#4 Von Miller & Bradley Chubb

The 2019 Statistics Say

Joey Bosa: 67 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, 54 quarterback pressures, 31 quarterback hits, one forced fumble, 836 defensive snaps

Melvin Ingram: 48 total tackles, seven sacks, 23 quarterback pressures, 12 quarterback hits, five passes defended, one interception, one fumble recovery, 668 defensive snaps

Von Miller: 46 total tackles, eight sacks, 37 quarterback pressures, 20 quarterback hits, two passes defended, 837 defensive snaps

Bradley Chubb: 21 total tackles, one sack, 10 quarterback pressures, six quarterback hits, one pass defended, one forced fumble, 236 defensive snaps (injured after week 4 and missed rest of season)

Chubb played in four games last season. The Broncos finished with 40 total sacks and averaged 2.5 sacks a game. Their defense was ranked 17th.

The Chargers finished with 30 sacks and averaged 1.9 sacks per game and were ranked the 28th best defense.


A good pass rush goes hand in hand with a great secondary.  And both teams have really good secondaries. Remember one of the best players in the Broncos’ secondary is now a member of the Chargers’ secondary.

The Players

2020 Denver Broncos 2019 stats

AJ Bouye: 65 total tackles, eight passes defended, one interception, 930 defensive snaps

Bryce Callahan: Missed entire season due to injury

Kareem Jackson: 71 total tackles, one quarterback pressure, 10 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, 842 defensive snaps

Justin Simmons: 93 total tackles, one quarterback pressure, 15 passes defended, four interceptions, 1,056 defensive snaps

The Broncos current secondary forced an incompletion on 12.4 percent of their targets. According to PFF, Simmons earned the third-highest coverage grade among qualifying safeties.

2020 Los Angeles Chargers 2019 stats

Chris Harris Jr.: 56 total tackles, six passes defended, one interception, one forced fumble, 1,047 defensive snaps

Casey Hayward: 32 total tackles, eight passes defended, two interceptions, 944 defensive snaps

Derwin James: 34 total tackles, one quarterback pressure, 299 defensive snaps

Desmond King: 51 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven quarterback pressures, four quarterback hits, two passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 582 defensive snaps

Injuries derailed the Chargers secondary from reaching their best. James missed 11 games. That is one of the reasons the Chargers’ secondary allowed the third-highest completion percentage (75.3%).

However, the secondary allowed the NFL’s third-fewest passing yards (2,226).

Who Wins?

While both teams have a formidable defense, the edge has to go to the Chargers. Their gains and return of the injured outweigh their losses.

Harris Jr. will be moving back into the slot corner position where he dominates. In 2018, he played 58 percent of the snaps in the slot, he did not allow a touchdown while allowing a passer rating of 57.3 percent.

Then there is the addition of linebacker Kenneth Murray who will only tighten up what is already a top-rated pass-rushing defense.

Bosa and Ingram are the top-rated pass-rushing defense. Bosa had the highest pass-rush win percentage of 23.1 percent in 2019 per PFF, while Ingram totaled 7.0 sacks in each of the last two seasons. According to Maurice Moton of BleacherReport, they rank only behind the Steelers’ duo of T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward.

The Broncos did have their share of injuries with Chubb being out 12 games. And the loss of Derek Wolfe will hurt, just a bit. But they did add Bouye and defensive linemen Jurrell Casey. Casey had five sacks last season in Tennessee, while Bouye in a dysfunctional Jacksonville backfield accounted for one interception and eight passes defended.

It wouldn’t be shirking my responsibilities if I stated that this is really close. Injuries could be the deciding factor. Can Chubb return to form and contribute to him and Miller combining for 26.5 sacks?

Will Harris return to his stellar slot corner form?

It’s close but yes, Chargers have the edge for now.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Television | Under Creative Commons License

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Television | Under Creative Commons License