Chargers 2016 positional grades: Defensive Line
By Travis Wakeman
The offseason positional grades of the Los Angeles Chargers continue, but it’s now time to jump over to the defensive side of the ball.
San Diego showed an improved defense in 2016, at least in some aspects. The team ranked No. 10 in the league against the run, allowing less than four yards per carry and 97.9 per game. However, the team was only able to register 35 sacks, which ranked right near the middle of the pack.
The team also suffered some difficult injuries along the defensive front, including Sean Lissemore who didn’t play a snap all season after missing the final month of the previous year with a shoulder injury.
Let’s take a look at how each defensive lineman played this past season, and I’ll grade their performance.
Despite holding out through training camp and the first month of the regular season, Joey Bosa turned in a stellar rookie season that could end up netting him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Bosa finished with 41 total tackles, a team-leading 10.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He’s as big a reason as any for fans that will follow the team to LA to be excited about its future. However, to fairly grade his rookie year, you also have to figure in what in my opinion was an extremely selfish holdout. Plus, having his mother say “We should have pulled an Eli Manning” is something I wasn’t able to just sweep under a rug.
That was deplorable, and his selfish act definitely hurt the team. However, his future is bright now that he is apparently happy where he is.
Corey Liuget played in all 16 games for the Bolts this past season after missing five games last year. That was the good news. The bad news is that he also failed to register a quarterback sack for the first time in his career.
He kncoked down three passes and had a fumble recovery, but the lack of sacks for a player that had 21 of them during his first five seasons is a concern.
Brandon Mebane was a great free-agent signing for the Chargers and he was a beast when he was on the field this year. Unfortunately, that only ended up being 10 games, as an injury cut his first season with the Chargers short.
Mebane was a big part of the improved run defense as he brought a tough mentality from his days in Seattle. He even collected his first career interception.
The injury was a tough blow to the defense, but I won’t hold that against him. Mebane should be a big part of the team’s plans in 2017.
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A sixth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2015, Darius Philon was thrown into the pressure cooker during his second season. He was the player the team was forced to turn to while Bosa held out.
During those first four games of the season, Philon was largely ineffective. He registered six total tackles during those games and didn’t get the kind of pressure on the quarterback that the team would have gotten from Bosa. Not even close.
Philon ended up with one sack on the year, but he’s nothing more than a situational player.
One of the better personnel moves the Chargers made this past year came right before the season started when they scooped up Caraun Reid off waivers from the Detroit Lions after he was one of their final roster cuts.
Reid’s season was also cut short by injury, but he is an intriguing part of the team’s future.
He had a sack in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs and just two weeks later, he picked up an Andrew Luck fumble and rumbled the other way for a touchdown.
Reid only appeared in seven games before being hurt, but the Chargers may have found a nice rotational piece in him.
When I made my final roster predictions last season, on more than one occasion, this guy was never part of the team. The Chargers chose to keep him around for added depth, but he had a quiet year…. at least on the field.
Palepoi had 13 tackles and a fumble recovery on the year before being suspended in December for violating the league’s policy against substance abuse. He won’t start the year on the active roster next season, because he’ll still be serving his suspension.
Maybe the Chargers will cut bait with him.
Damion Square made the most of his snaps in 2016.. His 2.5 sacks on the season were good for fourth on the team. He is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
A fifth-round pick in 2014, Ryan Carrethers has yet to find a solid role with the Chargers. His snaps were very limited in 2016 and he totaled just four tackles for the year.
It looked like he was going to carve out a role after appearing in 14 games in 2015, but was given action in just four games last year. Clearly, he was seen as nothing more than a backup that would be used sparingly, and that likely won’t change unless he has a huge showing in camp and preseason games this year.
Overall Grade: C
As was the theme for just about every positional unit this past season, the defensive line suffered some difficult injuries. Still, I think you have to be happy about the improvement against the run after watching the team get gashed just one year before.
Bosa is an extremely promising player and I feel fans should also be optimistic about the futures of Reid, Mebane and maybe even Square.