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Los Angeles Chargers: Status of the team’s defensive line heading into 2019

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive end Joey Bosa #99 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates his sack with defensive end Melvin Ingram #54 in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive end Joey Bosa #99 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates his sack with defensive end Melvin Ingram #54 in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers defensive line overall was average in 2018, but in some crucial moments, they couldn’t get pressure. Does the unit improve heading into 2019?

Throughout the offseason, Bolt Beat has been reviewing the Chargers’ position groups. Last time, the secondary was reviewed and graded, which can be checked out here. This time, let’s talk defensive line.

The best part of the defensive line is its defensive ends; Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are a fearsome duo that rank among the best at pass rushing in the league and was still a terrific duo last year even with Bosa coming off a foot injury.

Behind them is former seventh-round draft pick Isaac Rochell, who stepped up big time when Bosa was forced to miss time. It’s a really versatile and athletic group as well. Ingram, in Bosa’s absence, played multiple different positions on the line and even in coverage to make up for it. Gus Bradley can plug those guys anywhere and they make impact plays and smart decisions on defense.

The interior of the Chargers’ defensive line, while showing flashes here and there, was more of a question mark before the draft. Darius Philon left in free agency, which left the interior looking thin in terms of depth. Brandon Mebane, re-signed to a two-year contract, was the most experienced interior defensive lineman on the team at the end of free agency.

That’s why Tom Telesco selected Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery in this year’s draft. An injection of youth, speed, size, and skills are all things this line needs. Tillery gives this interior reasons for optimism in 2019, as well as disruptive seventh-round selection Cortez Broughton.

Both will prove important in the postseason against some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, where the Chargers will likely have to face Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, and Patrick Mahomes.

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The guy to watch for is Justin Jones. He was somewhat impressive last year, and after extensive offseason work, the former third-round pick is now pegged as the starting defensive tackle. If he can take a step forward in 2019 and really assert himself, this defensive line starts to look really good.

The defensive ends on the team are game-changers, with Ingram and Bosa still one of the NFL’s most elite pass-rushing tandems. The interior line gives me pause in being able to call this a truly elite defensive line though, as there’s still a lot that needs to be done to make it good, as well as some rookies and young guys that need to step up.

Plus, I’m not thrilled about an older Mebane still having the top spot on the defensive line.

Defensive Ends: A+

Interior D-Line: C+

Overall Grade: B

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