Culver City Observer -

By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers look like a better team on defense

 

On paper, the 2022 Los Angeles Chargers look like a very good football team. The offense, which was ranked 4th in the NFL in 2021, is already very good. The defense was the reason that the Chargers were not in the playoffs last season. General Manager Tom Telesco and his staff had the team in good salary cap shape this past spring and the team was aggressive in free agency.

The addition of outside linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson, defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, nose tackle Austin Johnson, linebacker Troy Reeder, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and defensive end Morgan Fox on the defensive side of the ball has given the Chargers a new look. This team has the depth and the toughness to help the offense out.

Mack is a future Hall-of-Famer acquired in a trade with the Chicago Bears, with the Bears looking to dump salary. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and six-time pro bowl player brings leadership and a strong work ethic to the defense. Jackson and Van Noy have Super Bowl Championship rings from their days with the New England Patriots. Jackson was an All-Pro cornerback with the New England and Van Noy had 5.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 11 playoff games with the Patriots.

Reeder and Joseph-Day were starters with the current Super Bowl Champions, the Los Angeles Rams. Johnson started in every game last season for the New York Giants and had a good season as a run stuffing defensive tackle, an area that needed improvement. Fox had a career high six sacks with the Rams in 2019, playing for Charger head coach Brandon Staley, who was the defensive coordinator for the Rams in 2019.

This group brings championship experience and toughness to a roster that was lacking both last season. In their first training camp practice of the season, the Chargers looked even better than on paper. The energy on defense was noticeable. The talent upgrade was also noticeable, particularly with the 2022 draft class.

Staley could see a noticeable difference in the defense as well with Mack and Jackson leading the way. “Those guys, they’ve played a lot of football”, Staley said. “I think that experience and that production brings a lot of confidence. I saw a group that was playing together today, as a team. That is what we were after today, putting together a good team performance in all three phases. You can have the right energy when you know what you’re doing, you know how to do it and why is important. “

There were two key starters missing from the defense at practice. Star safety Derwin James did not practice and will not play until a new contract is done. James has reported but will not take part in practice. James is in the last year of his rookie contract and will make $9.052 million. He is looking for a long-term deal. Pittsburgh Steeler safety Minkah Fitzpatrick recently signed a four-year deal worth $73.6 million dollars, with $36 million in guaranteed money. James is likely looking for something similar.

James is an important piece to the defense and everyone on the team understands that. “We’re working through his contract situation,” Staley said. “Just making sure that that gets situated here. He’s out here doing all of the walk-throughs, he’s going to be working out, but he won’t be going full speed until that gets situated.”

The other starter missing was inside linebacker Kenneth Murray, who was placed on the PUP list (Physically unable to perform list). Murray is coming off ankle surgery in April and is still recovering. Staley added that, “He’s working hard and he’s feeling much closer. But I’m not going to put a timeline on it. I just think that he will be practicing at some point in the next four to six weeks.”

On the offensive side of the ball, rookie running back Isaiah Spiller looked good as a receiver out of the backfield. He has good quickness, quick feet, and good acceleration. He looks like he could be a complete back and that is what Staley, and the Chargers are looking for. The offense is good, and the defense has improved. What could stop the Chargers? Well, the toughest division in football, the AFC West, and questionable coaching decisions.

Staley was asked about being aggressive on fourth down, or as some would put it, reckless? “Every year is a new season,” Staley said. “I think that we have full confidence in our team and how we do things. I do think it’s a positive thing for our team because we want to be aggressive. We want to have a team that’s fearless. It’s not scared to meet a moment. Every decision has a life of its own. You’re going to take it case-by-case. We have a brand-new team, so to say that we’re going to do it exactly like we did last year, that won’t be the case.”

Staley added, “I think that we’re going to try and get better at it as we go.” Which would be encouraging. The Chargers have a talented football team, a good combination of youth, talent, and experience. Trust your team and trust your defense, which could be one of the best in the NFL.

 

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