Chargers Interior Defensive Line Outlook

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Linval Joseph gets after Drew Brees

Chargers Interior Defensive Line Outlook

The Los Angeles Chargers interior defensive line is a potential weak point as they boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL. Still, the unit has plenty of talent and some un-tapped potential waiting to be fully unlocked by new Head Coach Brandon Staley.

If the Chargers want to maximize their potential on defense, they need to create more pressure from the interior. Staley’s vision for the defense will keep the rotation fresh and put his defensive linemen in situations they can make plays.

It also helps having Joey Bosa on the roster who will command plenty of attention as he enters the season with the fifth-best odds to win Defensive Player of the Year. Having a game wrecker like Bosa will allow the interior pass rushers to see more favorable one-on-one matchups.

Let’s take a look at how the Chargers interior defensive line looks heading into training camp:


Linval Joseph anchored the Chargers’ defense last season, starting all 16 games and racking up 62 tackles. Joseph is an underrated player who constantly demands double-teams and can collapse the pocket with his size and power.

He is a very intimidating presence at 6-foot-4, 329-pounds (he has recently trimmed down somewhat) and after just one season in Los Angeles, he has quickly become a fan favorite due to his captivating personality. One of Joseph’s most impressive traits is his motor and the exuberant energy he plays with. Turning on his tape, it’s awfully hard not to root for a guy who plays the game of football with the amount of passion Joseph does.

At 32-years-old and entering a contract season, his long-term outlook with the team is uncertain. However, he is still capable of making an impact in 2021 and he will see plenty of playing time as the Chargers starting nose tackle.

If you are not already convinced Jerry Tillery is ready to dominate in 2021, go take a look at Steven Haglund’s piece. He outlines the “unreasonably high expectations” that have been put on him, discusses the difficulties of becoming an NFL defensive tackle, and why Tillery is due for a huge year.

As a 2019 first-round draft pick, he has yet to showcase his full potential and like Haglund, I believe this is the year he puts it all together. Tillery’s explosiveness is truly amazing, and he couples that with his elite size (6-foot-6) and quick hands.

Getting into the backfield is no issue for Tillery, his struggles lie in his awareness against the run and ability to sniff out the ball carrier. The positive is, he has shown he can put himself in the right position to make plays. Now, he needs to demonstrate he can finish plays and prove why he is a first-round talent. If he can explode past his blockers with more control and solidify his tackling, I expect big things from Tillery.

Fighting for minutes at the defensive tackle position will be three-year veteran Justin Jones. At this point, it looks like a complete toss-up on who will win that starting spot. Expect to see Jones and Tillery battling for playing time all season long.

Selected by the Chargers in the 2018 draft, Jones has done nothing but improve during his time in the league. He notched his first career sack last season and finished tied for second on the team with five tackles-for-loss. He is remarkably strong and a disruptive force against the run with his ability to blow up running lanes. Jones is primed to be a major contributor in the Chargers defensive line rotation.

Key Departures

Following six seasons with the Chargers, Damion Square signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency. Square has been a vital rotational piece for the Bolts defense, appearing in every game over the past four seasons.

He joins a very crowded defensive line room in Cleveland with eight defensive tackles currently on the roster vying for four, MAYBE five spots. With Square being the oldest of the bunch (32-years-old) he will have to impress the coaching staff this summer if he hopes to make the final 53-man roster.

Free Agent Signings

Desperately needing some depth along the interior defensive line, the Chargers signed six-year veteran Christian Covington. Selected by the Texans in 2015, Covington was used sparingly as a backup during his time in Houston. Despite his limited playing time he still managed to be productive, totaling 132 tackles and 8.5 sacks during his time in the league.

Last season, Covington served as a bright spot on what was an atrocious Bengals’ defense. He appeared in all 16 games, including 14 starts and tallied a career-high 39 tackles. He is a very strong player who is more than capable of disrupting opposing backfields and will provide some valuable depth at a position that is fairly thin.

Chargers Interior Defensive Line Outlook

The Chargers elected to not take a defensive tackle in the 2021 draft, which shows the front office has tons of confidence in the guys currently on the roster. Joseph provides a consistent veteran presence; Covington will serve as a nice rotation piece while Tillery and Jones both have the potential for breakout years.

The Bolts also have some developmental talent at the position. 2019 draft pick Cortez Broughton, 2020 practice squad participant Breiden Fehoko and undrafted free agents Jared Goldwire and Forrest Merrill will all be battling to secure a spot on the backend of the roster. The lack of bodies on the interior defensive line could provide an opening for one of them but don’t expect the Bolts to carry more than five players at the position.


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Linval Joseph gets after Drew Brees – Via LA Daily News