Can New Blood revive Brandon Staley’s defense in Los Angeles?

The moment that ended the Chargers’ 2021 playoff hopes changed the off-season trajectory. Remember Brandon Staley’s timeout? The one before the third and 4th in overtime of a tie game with the Raiders in Week 18? The Chargers wanted to make sure the best running defenders were on the field for what would definitely be a Raiders play. but it does not matter. Vegas’s Josh Jacobs sprinted backwards for 10 yards; The Raiders were out of the playoffs, while the Chargers were sent into an absolute frenzy to repair one of the NFL’s worst defenses.

The Charger’s inability to stop the run at the most crucial moment of their season came as no surprise. Los Angeles tied for 28 yards per carry allowed (4.0), and allowed more than 100 yards in 12 of 17 games during the regular season, including the Raiders’ 174-yard riots in Week 18. Only two teams allowed more. Yardage dash per game (138.9).

The intensity of the team’s struggle against running cost the defense across the board. While the pass defense was closer to the middle of the pack (12th EPA allowed per drop), the Chargers defense ranked 31st in pass rate allowed in early runs, according to RBSDM.com, which routinely puts the defense in an unfavorable third position. Attitudes, opposing offenses were able to convert 50 percent of the time. Only Houston, Washington and Atlanta allowed the first landing at a higher rate in 2021.

Star power wasn’t the problem. Defensive end Joey Bossa and safety Derwin James, two of the NFL’s top players in their respective positions, each made the Pro Bowl, but the Chargers struggled to stop nearly everyone else, finishing 24th in the EPA for every game allowed by the end of the season. The problem was the lack of proven talent in the NFL around Bosa and James, so Staley, in his second season, and longtime general manager Tom Telesco prioritized adding not only better players, but players who would also be better suited to Staley’s defence, which relies heavily. It has two high security levels and complex pass-through coverage plans. This does mean, however, that there is often one less defender in the box designated to stop a run. Staley won’t give up on his basic defensive principles to load the box, so the answer should be more talented inside players.

“All these guys that we got through trade or free agency, these guys are proven players in the NFL,” Staley said last Friday. “In terms of what I expect from them, I expect us to play the team’s defense. Last year, that was a weakness for our football team. I don’t expect that to be the case. [this year]. That’s why all these guys are here.”

It all started with the biggest addition: Khalil Mac. The Chargers traded a 2022 second-round pick (48th overall) and a sixth-round 2023 pick for the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end of the Chicago Bears shortly before the free agency kicked off in March. , believing that Mac was fit not only for his ability to dash passers-by but for what Staley believed he could provide as a quick defender as well. He has ranked as the top five NFL edge defender with over 200 shots played in the Pro Football Focus defense score in each of his first seven seasons in the league. He will replace Oceana Noso who took first place 41st in PFF Defense Score (56.1) last year.

“We’re looking for playmakers, we’re looking for gameplay as well,” Staley told reporters at the time. “And the [Mack] It brings both of these things. Brings playmaking ability. It also brings the style of play we truly believe in. And I didn’t think we’d get tired of it [in 2021]. Not even close.”

The Charger is building on a rebound season from Mac, at age 31, as he returned from a foot injury that ended his season last year in Chicago. He couldn’t pick his destination when Chicago decided to trade him in, but landing with the Charger could give the team and player what they desire — a field upgrade for the chargers and, for Mac, a realistic chance of achieving a Super Bowl for the first time in his career.

“Ultimately, we want to get to the Super Bowl and we want to win it,” Mac said on Wednesday. “And that’s the only thing on my mind at this point in my career.”

Mac is getting hype as the biggest name, but Sebastian Joseph Day may be just as important to Staley’s plan to fix his team’s biggest responsibility. He signed a three-year, $24 million contract with The Chargers in March to reunite with Staley, with whom he played with the Rams in 2020. Joseph Day led all players in his position at PFF shutdown (35) and shutdown rate (14.2 percent) In his only year defending Staley. According to Warren Sharp, the Rams’ early defense ranked first in yards per carry allowed (3.0) with Joseph’s day on the field and 27 (4.7) when sidelined. Before tearing his pectoral muscles last October, Joseph Day led all defensive tackles in the NFL PFF downtime (18) and downtime (15.8 percent).

Staley’s 2021 Chargers didn’t have anyone like Joseph Day to anchor the 3-4 front end. Veteran Linval Joseph was 6-foot-4, 329 pounds, but simply couldn’t disrupt the streak of scrimmage enough to make a positive defensive impact, and finished the season 59th in the PFF’s defense score (49.8). ).

Joseph Day is now reunited with Staley, and Joseph Day will be paired with fellow freebie Austin Johnson, a 314-pound defensive tackle that knocks out his career with the Giants as he played 664 high-level defensive shots and ranks 10th. In total downtime (37) and downtime percentage (10.4 percent), per PFF. And perhaps most importantly, Johnson has played in every regular season game in each of the past five years.

“For these two guys, when I saw we caught them, I was like, ‘Man, this is cool,'” charge center Cory Linsley, lining up opposite the new Charger handlers, told the media following their first camp-lined practice on Monday. Sebastian is a great nose ring. He’s definitely one of the best players I’ve ever faced. For us to get him and Austin, those are two huge trucks.”

Joseph Day and Johnson ran with the first team defense during the first week of training camp and are expected to start inside Mac and Bosa along the defensive line. Joseph Day will replace Joseph on the nose, and Johnson will take shots away from Jerry Tillery and Christian Covington in a defensive tackle. Tillery and Covington, like Joseph, were among the lowest-rated defensive tackles in the NFL last season.

The three new starters along the defensive line are the most significant changes, but they aren’t the only new additions to Los Angeles. The team also entered 2022 with questions at the off-ball fullback, and part of the answer should be another off-season addition with the exact experience, versatility, and physique that Staley chased in Mack, Joseph Day and Johnson.

Enter Kyle Van Noy, who signed a one-year deal with the Chargers in May. He has already taken two first-team reps at center back, replacing Kenneth Murray, a former first-round winner who is recovering from ankle surgery. The floor of Van Noy’s role provides valuable depth in multiple positions in defense and the experience of a veteran who has won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, but don’t rule him out from retaining a starting job at center back as he continues camp. And in season.

“We’re only at the beginning with Kyle [Van Noy]Staley said Friday. “And I think he is capable of a lot. We will use this boot camp to see what role is best for him. He is lucky for us, he can play in so many places. I really enjoyed working as a team with this guy. This guy is really special.”

Van Noy, Murray and Drue Tranquill will compete in the 2019 fourth round for the two starting linebacker positions in Staley’s defense. Murray struggled so hard even when he was healthy for the first two years of his NFL career, he won’t even have a chance to prove otherwise until he trains again, which may not be for another three to five weeks. Van Nooy and Tranquil should be the two favorites to start the first week.

The defense investment spree is an all-out chip push to ensure they don’t fall back on their play-off bid in 2022. Bosa is the only starter back among the Chargers’ front seven to play more than 50 per cent of the team’s defensive picks in 2021 – Overhaul already drew attention from the Chargers’ attack in the camp.

Austin Eckler, who ran back on Friday, said he has noticed the larger bodies in the penalty area and how additions make things more difficult to manage football. And Kenan Allen sees a completely different unit altogether.

“The defense really looks like a 360 team,” Allen said on Thursday. “They kicked our ass today, which is good. Hopefully we can keep building on it.”