Should the Los Angeles Chargers Replace Morgan Fox with a Rookie?

Will Morgan Fox be riding the bench more this season for the Los Angeles Chargers

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Los Angeles Chargers defensive lineman Morgan Fox had a better 2022 than 2023. After spending several years with the Rams and one year in Carolina, he returned to LA and signed with the Chargers in 2022 on a 1-year contract. Though Fox has been more of a depth piece on the roster, due to his ability to play on the edge and the interior, he was a big help that year when it seemed like every week someone was going on injured reserve.

He played so well that season, he earned a 2 year extension worth $7.25 million with $3.75 million guaranteed.

Pass rushing has always been his strong suit, and according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) most years Fox has been able to produce multiple sacks and double-digit quarterback hurries. He’s struggled in run defense and tackling but has often overcome those hurdles with flashes of really productive play. 

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In Week 13 of the 2022 season against the Raiders, Fox helped slow down running back Josh Jacobs, in a season when Jacobs was playing like an absolute monster. And during Week 14, he sacked Tua Tagovailoa on a third-and-10 during the third quarter, in a game where the Chargers defense really found its rhythm. In 2022, Fox was there to pick up the slack and came in handy in clutch moments. 

But in 2023, he muddled mostly in the middle of the pack. Though he ended up fourth on the team in sacks (five), his solo tackles (seven) and number of STOPs (eight) were low. Entering this season, general manager Joe Hortiz and head coach Jim Harbaugh want to build a deep roster, and they most likely will draft a defensive lineman, and have already added defensive tackle Poona Ford free agency.

I’m surprised that Fox is still on the roster, considering the lackluster season he had. If he can’t rise to the top, will he see his playing time shrink? And could a rookie take his spot? 

Los Angeles Chargers Rookies That May Give Morgan Fox Some Competition 

If the Chargers draft at pick five in the first round, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll draft a defensive lineman there, considering a lot of the mocks have them acquiring a wide receiver or offensive tackle. If they trade down in the first, that’s where I would maybe consider a defensive lineman, but I really don’t see one for them being drafted until the second and third rounds or even later.

Kris Jenkins

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If the Chargers draft an interior defensive lineman in later rounds, I like Kris Jenkins from Michigan. His PFF tackle grade last year was 60.7, with a run defense grade of 82.3 and a pass rush one of 70.5. He played a total of 418 defensive snaps last year, 187 of those at run defense and 228 at pass rush. Fox played a similar amount of defensive snaps last year (437), with 115 at run defense and 319 at pass rush, earning grades of 43.1 and 64.6 respectively, while his tackle grade was at a career low of 30. 

Jenkins isn’t afraid to be mobile. In his NFL combine analysis, Lance Zierlein remarked that he has “a smaller frame for his position” and “has trouble fighting back to muddy his gap against double-teams,” but “his motor stays engaged. He’s frequently running down ball-carriers and chasing quarterbacks by the end of the play.”

Though Zierlein says that he is “missing the ideal frame and girth for an NFL starter inside,” and PFF commented on his “arm length limitations and lack of pass rush profile,” Jenkins can overcome parts of that criticism. Because his dad played at the defensive tackle position in the NFL, with the number of Chargers’ coaches from Michigan with familiarity with his playing style, he’s an attractive option and someone who could come for Fox’s spot. 

Braden Fiske

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If the Chargers end up making a defensive lineman an earlier draft priority, Braden Fiske of the Florida State Seminoles, where he played for his last year of college, is another option. His run defense grade has been steady throughout his college career, and he had his highest (84.2) in 2022 when he played the most run defense snaps (342). In 2023, his run defense was at 69.4 with 181 snaps played, and his pass rush was 73.7 with 263 snaps.  

Fiske is a bulldozer. He’s another one that Zierlein in his analysis says has “below-average mass and length” but he “makes up for it with above-average quickness and a constantly revving engine.” He also remarked that he, “plays with a fully fueled motor as both run defender and pass rusher” and “leaps out of his stance and up the field to attack the pocket.” Fiske fits the makeup that Harbaugh wants of an aggressive, physical, player, who looks like he could tire out his fair share of offenses. If he performs well during camp, he could definitely be someone who could take reps in front of Fox.

What’s in Store for Morgan Fox?

Considering Morgan Fox ticks some boxes for the Los Angeles Chargers but not all, there’s a real chance someone could cut in front of him for his spot. Rookies have a way of shocking the world, like edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu, and you never know when one will have that “it” factor.” Even if Fox does stay on the team, I don’t foresee him getting an extension, and his case will definitely be damaged if he can’t get as much playing time as last year. 

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