With so many high-profile additions this offseason for the Chargers, will the team’s defense rank the very best in the NFL next season?
In 2021, the Los Angeles Chargers defense ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed per attempt and eighth in passing yards allowed per attempt. The team’s defensive woes have been holding this roster back from playoff success for far too long. To combat this, General Manager Tom Telesco had a very busy offseason, adding multiple impact-free agents to all phases of the defense.
On March 16, 2022, the Los Angeles Chargers traded a 2022 Second Round Pick and a 2023 Sixth Round Pick to the Chicago Bears in exchange for All-Pro Outside Linebacker Khalil Mack. This trade came as a shock to all, including Chargers fans, and was one of the first major moves of any NFL franchise at the beginning of the 2022 offseason. Little did we know, the Los Angeles Chargers and “Good morning! Tom Telesco” were just getting started!
With Countless Top-Tier Additions, Chargers Are Set To Dominate
One might think that pairing a future Hall of Fame talent like OLB Khalil Mack with four-time Pro Bowl Defensive End Joey Bosa is enough to send chills down the spine of every Offensive Coordinator and starting Quarterback across the NFL, which I would absolutely agree with! However, the Chargers were nowhere near finished adding talent to their defense, specifically the Defensive Line. Following the addition of Khalil Mack, the Chargers signed former Los Angeles Rams Defensive Lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and former New York Giants DL Austin Johnson.
In 2021, Joseph-Day was on track to put up his best numbers as a pro before a pectoral injury in Week Seven sidelined him for the rest of the 2021 season; Joseph-Day was on pace for seven sacks and 92 tackles. In 2021, DL Austin Johnson played his first season as an NFL starter, totaling 72 tackles and playing a pivotal role in the Giants’ efforts against opposing rushers. Both Joseph-Day and Johnson will provide much-needed depth to the Chargers’ Defensive Line in 2022. This is something the team struggled with mightily in their 2021 campaign, as they finished with the third most rushing yards allowed in the NFL.
We haven’t touched on the addition that could be the most impactful for this Chargers’ defense. On March 18, 2022, two days after the groundbreaking Khalil Mack trade, the Los Angeles Charges signed the top available defensive free agent, 2021 Second Team All-Pro Cornerback J.C. Jackson. Since entering the league in 2018, Jackson has had 25 interceptions, the most in the NFL over that span.
CB J.C. Jackson fills a massive void on this defense, as 32-year-old Chris Harris Jr. and Michael Davis, who was PFF’s 89th rated corner, were the teams starting Cornerbacks in 2021. In 2021, the Chargers’ 11 interceptions were tied for the fifth lowest in the NFL, and the 27 passing touchdowns allowed were tied for the seventh most in the NFL. I believe that Jackson will be plugged into this defense and immediately impact both of these regards.
Additional Under The Radar Moves Rounds Out Chargers Roster
More recently, on May 5, 2022, the Chargers signed free agent cornerback Bryce Callahan and outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Callahan, who spent the last two years in Denver, has been most productive playing as a slot corner and will provide the Chargers’ defense with even more secondary help. Van Noy, an eight-year veteran, is a two-time Super Bowl Champion who will be a tremendous addition to the defense, especially from a leadership standpoint. Considering how loaded this defense is with physical talent, a player with Van Noy’s experience can help instill a winning culture into this locker room that could take this team to new heights.
On paper, this Chargers defense is arguably the most talented in all of football; a defensive front led by four-time Pro Bowl DE Joey Bosa, All-Pro OLB Khalil Mack, and DL Sebastian Joseph Day paired with two-time first-team All-Pro S Derwin James, second-team All-Pro CB J.C. Jackson, and CB Asante Samuel. This level of talent will enable Head Coach Brandon Staley to scheme around his Hall of Fame level talents similarly to how he did with the 2020 Los Angeles Rams, who ranked first in points and total points allowed that year.
It’ll be fascinating to watch all of this incoming talent and experience join alongside the team’s cornerstone pieces. Since Justin Herbert has become the starting quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers have proven to be a consistently explosive and efficient offense. What’s kept this team from the success that we’re all rooting for, has been the team’s defensive woes. As a Chargers fan, watching the front office make all of these moves gives me a sense of hope and optimism like I’ve never had before!