Chargers’ success is about getting defensive

(News4usonline) – To a man, the Los Angeles Chargers have a premier defensive unit. Any defense with Joey Bosa, Derwin James Jr., J.C. Jackson, and Khalil Mack on it figures to be elite. Throw in players like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Kyle Van Noy, and Kenneth Murray Jr., that should be enough to put a pause in opposing offenses around the league.

In the first half of their first two games of the 2022 NFL season, the defense of the Chargers has looked every bit of the dominant unit that has been advertised. In their season-opening 24-19 win against the Las Vegas Raiders, the defense of the Chargers put the clamps on Derek Carr and the Las Vegas offense through the first two quarters, holding the Raiders to only three points.

Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (97) at work against Darren Waller (83) of the Las Vegas Raiders in a 2019 NFL game played at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“I think that we saw all three levels of our defense play together,” Staley said about his defense’s performance against the Raiders. “That’s what our vision was, was to build a complete defensive football team. I think that’s what you saw out there today, was a  complete defensive football team. There’s still a lot  of work to do.”

Staley continued, “We’re going to look at this and there’s going to be a  lot that we didn’t like, but we competed the right way and we did the things that you need to do in this league, which is force takeaways, play tight in the redzone and take the run away. I think we did that.”

Even though they surrendered 16 points in the second half of that ballgame, the Chargers’ defense finished the way they started. With Carr and the Raiders getting the ball on their last drive, two sacks on that possession by the Chargers chilled whatever aspirations Las Vegas may have had of trying to walk out of SoFi Stadium with a win.

Brandon Staley
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“It’s a big win, division game,” said Asante Samuel Jr., who had one of the team’s three interceptions against the Raiders. “It’s just one of many that we’ve got to keep stacking.”

As they demonstrated against the Raiders, the new-look defense of the Chargers has the ability to change the outcome of a game the way they did in their Week 1 matchup against Las Vegas in the team’s season opener at SoFi Stadium. It was James, of course, who would set the tone.

The all-world safety for the Chargers baited Carr into thinking he was in pass coverage. Instead, James came crashing down on the Raiders’ backfield in a full-on blitz and wound up putting Carr on his backside. Mission accomplished. James said the tone he was hoping to set was a matter of getting the rest of the defense amped up.

“Just bringing that energy,” James said prior to the Chargers playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. “Bringing the energy we need, you know. Getting them behind the sticks, and trying to get off the field on third downs.”

In the Chargers’ season-opening win against their longtime AFC West Division rivals, James and his teammates sent a message. Sure, it was just the first game of a very long season. However, the big hit by James on Carr established the kind of day that Carr would have.

“With guys like Derwin [James Jr.], plays like that don’t surprise you, but you don’t take them for granted,” Staley said. “He’s a play-maker. A lot of DBs can’t blitz, they can’t rush. Even though some schemes are good when DBs blitz, if they can’t blitz, it doesn’t matter. He’s one of the guys that can truly rush and truly be a matchup guy in pass rush. Derwin is at his best when he’s attacking, and we tried to do that. We try to do that when possible.”

Carr did have some success through the air (22 of 37 for 295 yards and 2 TDs), but he just wasn’t quite right after James delivered his blow early in the first quarter.

One can make the argument that James took the sails from underneath Carr and the Raiders with his big play. As a result, the Chargers intercepted Carr three times and recorded six sacks in the game, including the momentous game-changing play that James produced. Mack, in his first season with the Chargers after being traded to the team from the Chicago Bears, was in on three of those takedowns.

For the first half against the Chiefs, the defense of the Chargers kept up the on Patrick Mahomes and held Kansas City to just seven points. The Chargers wound up losing to the Chiefs, 27-24. In spite of the defeat, the Chargers, with a hobbled Justin Herbert, still managed to come within a flailed onside kick away from making the game really interesting at the end.

The game itself could have gone either way, but on a scorecard when it came down to how they played, the Chargers’ defense held up pretty well. For the second straight week, the Chargers held a juggernaut offense to 20 points or less. The Chiefs got their other seven points off a turnover, which eventually was the difference in the game.

As the Chargers prepped to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in a home game at SoFi Stadium, cornerback Bryce Callahan said the Chargers’ defensive unit still has some work to do.

“I feel like we’ve been executing our coverages pretty well, you know, communicating and stuff,” Callahan said. “You know, being early in the season, there’s still a bunch of like new scene looks and stuff we can be better at playing, but I feel like we’ve been doing good communicating, and kind of putting our pieces together.”

Featured Image Caption: Khalil Mack (52) of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a play on the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers