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The Chargers Defensive Line: Week 3

The Los Angeles Chargers lost a defensive contest to the Detroit Lions 13-10. While their defensive line played well, in the end their offense could not come through when it counted most. However, the Lions were able to gain a substantial amount of yards at critical moments of the game. The lone bright spot is that they did not allow anyone to surpass 50 yards rushing for the day.

Unfortunately, this number is deceiving as the Lions running backs dodged and juked various Chargers defenders for critical first downs. They were also exposed in screen passes. The Chargers defensive line must improve as a unit if they hope to have a victory against the Houston Texans this Sunday.

Preview vs the Houston Texans

The Texans feature one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, Deshaun Watson, and their offensive line works very hard to protect him at all costs. They have also led the way for both running backs Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to average more than five yards per carry. However, most of their offensive linemen are unknown.

Their most popular player is newly acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil. He comes from Miami via trade and has a few accolades to his name. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2016 and was twice named First-team All-SEC while attending Ole Miss.

Standing next to Tunsil at left guard is Senio Kelemete who has only started 36 times since entering the league in 2012. He is not exceptionally gifted athletically, having only ran a 5.39 in the 40-yard dash and lifting just 21 reps in the bench press at the NFL Combine. His greatest attribute is his clean play. In 14 starts last year, he was only called for a penalty twice.

Center Nick Martin is very strong, having lifted 28 reps in the bench press at the NFL Combine in 2016. He is becoming more reliable as he started 30 games in the past two years.

Right guard Zach Fulton was originally drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. While there, he started at both guard positions and center. After joining the Texans in 2018, he started 13 games.

Right tackle Seantrel Henderson is one of the largest offensive tackles the Chargers will have to face this season. He is intimidating, standing 6’7” and weighing 351 lbs .

Review vs the Detroit Lions

The Good:

The Chargers defensive line was top heavy in it’s performance. Their stud defensive ends collected a good amount of tackles yet their interior defensive line only registered one unassisted tackle between them. What is worthy of note is despite their lack of a pass rush, they were able to hold the Lions starting running back, Kerryon Johnson, to just 3.4 yards per carry.

Although the Chargers did not record a sack, they did apply pressure to Stafford at time. Early in the second quarter, The Lions were on their own 45-yard line facing 3rd-and-four. Joey Bosa chased Stafford out of the pocket and out of bounds to force the Lions to punt.

Late in the second quarter, the Lions lined up for a field goal. Chargers nose tackle Damion Square blocked the field goal to preserve a slight lead going into the half.

In the middle of the third quarter, the Lions faced 3rd-and-2 from deep in their own territory. Johnson tried to take advantage of a week interior defensive line but Bosa had another idea. Bosa stopped Johnson cold on the play and the Lions were forced to punt.

The Bad:

Early in the second quarter, the Lions were on their own 14-yard line. Johnson ran through the middle of the defensive line for a 16-yard gain. He wasn’t even touched while dashing through the first level of the defense.

The Ugly:

In the middle of the first quarter, the Lions were on the Chargers 36 yard line. Quarterback Matthew Stafford dumped a screen pass to Johnson who took it to the end zone for a touchdown. The defense was there but many players whiffed on the opportunity to stop him from scoring. To make matters worse, a large number of their defensive linemen bit on the screen and tried to charge Stafford.

Late in the second quarter, Melvin Ingram tripped while getting out of his stance and in the process tripped his own teammate, defensive tackle Justin Jones. Due to the immense confusion, Stafford had no problem completing the pass from a clean pocket. The Lions had been lined up on their own 25-yard line but ended up in the middle of the field as a result of Ingram’s gaffe.

Final Thoughts

The Chargers may be in trouble with Houston. In the past two weeks, their defensive line has been out played and out hit against what should be weaker offensive lines. The Texans have mostly unknown players on their offensive line yet they play stronger as a unit than the previous two opponents the Chargers have faced. This is especially true when their backs are against their own end zone as they tend to play flawlessly in that area of the field.

Of course, like all offensive lines, the Texans can be exposed to a well disguised blitz. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Deshaun Watson is a terrific scrambler and can make any defender in the NFL look silly on any given play. In the opening weeks of the season the Chargers defensive line has been pushed around while relying heavily on their star defensive ends to make plays.

If their interior defensive line does not step up then this week will truly be a battle between the Unsung Heroes and the Super Heroes.

David Hegler

Author David Hegler

BS in Business Management from Azusa Pacific University. Fanatical 49er fan. Avid fan of all Bay Area sports teams.

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