Will Joey Bosa’s presence bring hope to what has been a down season?
By Matt Pagels
The San Diego Chargers are only four games into the 2016 NFL season, but there’s not a lot of optimism going forward.
To say it’s been a tough season is an understatement. The Chargers are 1-3 and in last place in the AFC West. All three of those losses were because the Chargers forgot how to play football in the fourth quarter.
They’ve gone into every fourth quarter with a lead, but how do you win the game when you’re outscored 51-19 in that said quarter?
The San Diego Chargers are the worst 4th quarter team thus far in the Super Bowl era. pic.twitter.com/k9QrPoakdM
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) October 5, 2016
San Diego is the only sub .500 team to have more points for than points against. Not only that, but injuries are racking up–and they’re happening to key players. The Chargers lost arguably their best weapon on offense in wide receiver Keenan Allen and their best player on defense in cornerback Jason Verrett, both of whom suffered ACL tears. Elite third-down specialist Danny Woodhead (torn ACL) and defensive captain Manti Te’o (torn Achilles) are also out for the year. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (torn ACL), running back Branden Oliver (torn Achilles) and tight end Jeff Cumberland (torn Achilles) were lost before the season even started.
Again, it’s still very early in the season, but hope has been shattered.
But maybe that hope can be resurrected. After the battle royal between the Chargers and 2016 first-round pick Joey Bosa essentially caused the latter’s four-game absence (dealt with a hamstring injury for the past month and delayed practices in pads), the former Ohio State Buckeye is finally set to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the divisional rival Oakland Raiders.
So will Bosa be a symbol of hope? The hero that San Diego deserves?
It’s unfair to put all of that pressure on one man, and I’m not going to. Expectations must tempered due to the fact that the 21-year-old has yet to play a down in the NFL.
But we should all be excited. I mean, he was the No. 3 overall selection for a reason. He could be the game-changer that we’ve all been waiting for. Maybe it’s time for the defense to carry this team going forward.
And it starts with getting Bosa on the field.
In case we all forgot, Bosa finished as the No. 1 and No. 2 pass-rusher in the nation among edge defenders in 2014 and 2015, respectively, per Pro Football Focus. He also finished No. 1 in the nation among edge defenders against the run in both 2014 and 2015, per PFF.
Bosa is a consistent playmaker. More importantly, he is a finisher. In 2014, Bosa was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after leading all FBS defenders with 22 tackles for loss (finished No. 4 overall in 2015). He also amassed 26 sacks over three years at Ohio State.
The Chargers have done a somewhat decent job without Bosa, racking up nine sacks (tied for 12th-best) and six interceptions (tied for third-best). They’ve even allowed just 328 rushing yards through four games, which is good for seventh in the NFL.
The problem is they’ve allowed seven rushing touchdowns, which is the third-most in the league. They also struggle to get off the field. The defense ranks 23rd in the league with 91 total first downs allowed. And in crunch time, the Chargers’ defense fails to deliver, allowing an 83.3 percent completion rate (five-of-six) on fourth down.
I argued that Bosa was the right pick for the Chargers. He’s not going to be “all that” in his first game, but he could end up being a dominant defender whose playmaking presence can make-or-break a game.
We all know the Chargers need that. And now without Verrett, the Chargers must find a star to take over the reigns.
Let’s hope Bosa can be that guy. We can hope, right?