We’re four days away from training camp, so now it’s time for our fourth bold prediction for the San Diego Chargers.
Bold Prediction No. 4: Chargers’ defense will finish in the top 10 in total sacks
We gave the offense plenty of love in our last bold prediction, so now it’s time to put some faith in the defense.
The question is, is it really a good idea to put our faith in the defense? The last time they finished in the top 10 in total sacks was in 2010, where they tied the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders for second with 47 sacks (hmm.. the same year the offense finished in the top 10 in points per game).
They ranked 24th (32 sacks) in 2015, 29th (26 sacks) in 2014, 23rd (35 sacks) in 2013, 11th (38 sacks) in 2012 and 23rd (32 sacks) in 2011. Up until last season, the Chargers didn’t have a single player finish the season with double-digit sacks since Antwaan Barnes did it in 2011. Thankfully, Melvin Ingram broke the curse with his career-high 10.5 sacks.
Last year’s top-10 leaders (Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals) all had dominant front sevens. There was at least one star on their respective lines. What’s interesting is that aside from the Lions, each team made the playoffs. Tells you something, doesn’t it?
Like a lot of these bold predictions, it all comes down to the lines. The defensive line has been the weakest link on defense over the past few seasons.
We knew it. The Chargers knew it (finally). And they addressed that weakness with the selection of defensive end Joey Bosa in the 2016 draft and the addition of nose tackle Brandon Mebane in free agency. A revamped defensive line will impact the linebackers greatly.
With Bosa and Mebane manning their respective positions, Corey Liuget, who is one of the more underrated players in the league, could have his best year yet considering he won’t command all the double teams. Either way, Bosa and Liuget will have plenty of opportunities to get to the quarterback. Also, don’t sleep on defensive lineman Darius Philon, the second-year pro who has rare speed and pass-rushing capabilities for a big guy.
And if this line plays to its potential, then I can see Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu reaching close to 10 sacks a piece. Depth at that position is important, too, and the Chargers have talented outside linebackers in Kyle Emanuel and Tourek Williams, both of whom will get their fair share of snaps. It will also allow players like Manti Te’o, Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown, Jahleel Addae and Stevie Williams to get the occasional sack.
Again, we haven’t even seen the new starters in action, but friends, the hype is real.