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The Chargers Defensive Line: Week 8

The Chargers lost to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday 23-20. Despite the loss, their defensive line played better than it did a week earlier against the Steelers. Defensive end Joey Bosa collected two sacks and the defense held running back Derrick Henry to under 100 yards rushing. Still, despite the improved performance, a loss is still a loss. Next on the schedule are the Chicago Bears and their talented yet indistinguishable offensive line.

Preview Vs The Bears

Throughout their illustrious history, the Chicago Bears have relied on a stout defense and a punishing ground attack. That philosophy is no different today. With quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggling, the Bears have had to rely on running back David Montgomery to carry the load for their offense. Last year they had Jordan Howard as their running back but he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. It has been a tough transition for the offense as Montgomery has only recorded a team leading 231 rushing yards on 71 carries. Their running game is struggling as they have only managed 3.4 yards per carry. Trubisky has not helped much as he has only passed for 839 yards and five touchdowns in five games. They are an offense without an identity, yet they may prove to be dangerous for the Chargers defense as they are willing to try anything to get out of their slump

Their offensive line has dealt with injury issues for much of the season. This was magnified when the team put guard Kyle Long on injured reserve which ended his season. Surprisingly, despite his absence, the Bears only rank 18th in the NFL for sacks allowed with 15. They also rank 18th in the NFL for pass attempts with 220. Interestingly, the Chargers rank 21st in the NFL with 14 sacks.

One would think that they would rely more on their ground game due to the inconsistency of their quarterback but they rank 28th in the NFL with just 70 rushing yards per game. All season, the Chargers have consistently given up large chunks of yards on the ground and it appears that they may have a break from their major defensive weakness this week. The Bears have only rushed for 20 or more yards on a single carry three times this year while the Chargers have given up 20 or more yards on six separate occasions.

Their offensive line is filled with unknown, yet talented individuals.

Charles Leno Jr. starts at left tackle and is short for his position. He stands 6’3” and weighs 305 lbs. He was invited to his first Pro Bowl last year.

Standing next to Leno is Cody Whitehair. He also stands 6’3” and weighs 310 lbs. He made his first Pro Bowl last year.

At center, the Bears have James Daniels. He is in his second year in Chicago, having played his college ball at Iowa. He made third-team All-Big 10 in 2016. He stands 6’3” and weighs 305 lbs.

Ted Larsen lines up at right guard and stands 6’3”, weighing 323 lbs. He is in his first year in Chicago having spent his career as a journeyman.

Bobby Massie lines up at right tackle. He is the Bears largest offensive lineman, standing 6’6” and weighing 325 lbs.

Review Vs The Titans

The Good

Early in the second quarter, the Titans faced 1st-and-10 from their own 25 ½ yard line. Nose tackle Damion Square came barreling through the line and was in Ryan Tannehill’s face as he released the ball. Unfortunately, Tannehill was able to complete the pass but the Chargers did apply good pressure.

Early in the third quarter, the Titans faced 2nd-and-8 from their own 18 ½ yard line. The Chargers defensive line appeared to have good outside containment before an opening emerged. Tannehill moved toward the opening to get a better view of his targets. All the while, Bosa had his eye on Tannehill and took him down for the sack.

A few plays later, the Titans faced 3rd-and-6 from the Chargers 48-yard line. Tannehill felt pressure up the middle and backed up a couple of feet. This created an opening for Bosa to sack him, ending the drive.

In the middle of the third quarter, the Titans faced 1st-and-10 from the Chargers 40-yard line. Uchenna Nwosu hit Tannehill as he threw the ball and the Chargers intercepted the pass.

The Bad

Late in the second quarter, the Titans faced 1st-and-10 from the Chargers 25-yard line. Derrick Henry took the handoff up the middle and stumbled before regaining his balance and gaining another first down. Chargers defenders bounced off of him before taking him down past the first down marker.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Titans were in the Chargers red zone threatening to score. Henry took the pitch and the Chargers defensive line was slow to react, including an early stumble by Damion Square. Henry promptly scored on the play.

The Ugly

Early in the second quarter, the Titans faced 2nd-and-8 from their own 39-yard line. Tannehill felt pressure from his blindside and slid over to the left. The Chargers defensive line did not make any effort to chase him further out of the pocket and no one was within five yards of him as Tannehill completed the pass for the first down.

Late in the second quarter the Titans faced 1st-and-10 from their own 47-yard line. Derrick Henry took the screen pass in heavy traffic and rumbled past midfield for the first down. Both Bosa and Square were in his face as he collected the pass but bumped into each other while in pursuit.

Final Thoughts

Through the various up and downs of this season, one thing is clear about both squads. They have an identity issue. The Bears have much of the same talent which grinded out the yards last year and yet they are stuck in neutral. The Chargers have two of the fiercest pass rushers in the NFL and yet they only have 14 sacks going into the middle of the season. Both teams have been searching for answers but have yet to find a solution to their identity crises.

Aside from Kyle Long, the Bears injury report this week has been relatively clear. The Chargers, however, are a group of walking wounded. Cortez Broughton (illness), Justin Jones (shoulder) and Brandon Mebane (knee) all missed practice this week. Melvin Ingram has been dealing with a hamstring injury for much of this season and has been limited in practice. Nose tackle Damion Square was also limited in practice this week due to a hamstring injury. It is hard to say how these various ailments will affect the Chargers performance on Sunday but one thing is obvious. This is a make or break game for both squads and the one which comes out on top will have fewer questions to answer.

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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