Hey guys, I’m back! Wow, it has been quite a while. Yeah I know, it’s been like a good year since I have written something. But I’m glad to be writing for you guys again. I finally have enough free time to actually pound out a couple articles per week now. Let’s get to it!
I wanted to turn our focus onto the Chargers’ roster from the defensive standpoint, evaluating the changes we have seen thus far and comparing them to last years’ squad. How much has this team improved already from last season? Great question. On paper, this team looks a lot better than it did in 2015. Here’s a breakdown as we head into the 2016 season:
1. THE DEFENSIVE LINE ACTUALLY LOOKS GREAT (FINALLY!!!)
The additions of Brandon Mebane and Joey Bosa were HUGE for the Chargers. The D-line has been a weak point for this team for quite a while now, and our run defense has looked absolutely terrible the past few years. Telesco has finally made some pretty good moves to fix that by landing Mebane and Bosa to start with Corey Liuget after letting Kendall Reyes walk in free agency. We now have legitimate starters on this defensive line with great depth in Darius Philon, Ryan Carrethers and Sean Lissemore.
The potential for this group is out the roof. If Bosa can break out as a star player, it will help lift so much stress off the shoulders of Liuget, who has been our only lineman who actually produced some good plays over the past couple of years. This squad looks great on paper so far, so if they can work together and build some chemistry during the offseason, I don’t see why this group can’t be one of the best lines in the NFL.
2. The secondary is shaping into something great
I don’t know about you guys, but the secondary is kind of so-so in my opinion, only because it’s too soon to tell what this squad is capable of. We do have Jason Verrett; but outside of “Feeva Island,” we don’t have much to really brag about. The Chargers took a bit of a blow with the departure of Eric Weddle, only to replace him with Dwight Lowery (hooray, more ex-Colts). This, in my opinion, is a bit of a downgrade. Lowery might have had more interceptions than Weddle last year, but he is not the man he was in his Pro Bowl-prime. He is only a short-term solution to basically fill the void left by Weddle.
Replacing Lowery with another player in the future might be the answer here, but who knows? We might have that player on the squad right now, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out. Then again, players like Walter Thurmond III are still available in free agency. We didn’t really bring in anyone to start alongside Lowery, so it looks like the coaching staff trusts Jahleel Addae to handle the job especially after rewarding him with a new two-year contract. The Bolts did bring in some quality depth players to compete for the back-up role or even possibly take the starting role from Addae.
We have added CB Casey Hayward from the Packers, and I think that’s a great pickup to pair with Pro Bowl corner Verrett. We also have a good mix for the slot. Possibly Brandon Flowers (unless he continues to show age and decline), Steve Williams and Craig Mager. Don’t be surprised to see Williams or Mager take over Flowers’ spot if he doesn’t play up to par. This squad is literally one player away from being VERY nasty. And if one of our depth players show up big time, then that’s just the icing on the cake.
3. The linebackers will be killer
The linebackers squad is going to be a really fun group to watch in 2016. Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu both had really outstanding seasons in 2015, and look for them to capitalize again this year. Manti Te’o is yet to have his breakout year, and while he has improved a lot since his rookie year, he still has a lot to work on. The emergence of Denzel Perryman has been outstanding for this team, and it was exactly what we needed to get our defense going. Te’o has played better ever since Perryman started alongside him, and it should only get better.
Our depth will be something interesting to watch as well. We have an electrifying young player in Kyle Emanuel, who seemed to be all over the field whenever he was playing. He should gain more playing time in 2016 as well, so expect some more good stuff from the young guy while Ingram and Attaochu rest on certain downs and packages. Our depth behind the middle linebackers is an interesting case as well, since we just drafted two linebackers to play behind Te’o and Perryman. We were able to snag some pretty decent talent in these two guys. Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown will be an interesting duo to watch, especially during preseason where we will see the most action from those two guys. Should they break onto the scene as solid contributors, then we have a really good looking LB corps. Expect the linebackers to do a lot better in 2016 as the revamped defensive line should help create more holes for them and allow us to get to the QB faster.
Overall, the defense as a whole just looks way better than it did in 2015. We brought in some raw talent, and we even have players that are returning from injury to help contribute as well. This squad is a lot younger, too, so that will definitely go a long way for this team. I don’t see why this defense can’t be in the top 15 in 2016, for we have a solid secondary that features Verrett. We also have a redesigned defensive line that is now going to feature Liuget, Bosa and Mebane as the leaders. And the linebackers will be looking to stop the run and chase opposing players. We’ve got bruisers and speedsters here now, so this group is going to be really fun to watch this year.
All in all, expect a different game to be played when the defense steps on the field. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like this year is going to be a good one for the defense. Only time will tell of course, but for the time being, BOLT UP!