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Chargers 2019 rookie report card: Jerry Tillery

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 18: Jerry Tillery #99 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks quarterback Taysom Hill #7 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half of their pre seaon football game at Dignity Health Sports Park on August 18, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - AUGUST 18: Jerry Tillery #99 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks quarterback Taysom Hill #7 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half of their pre seaon football game at Dignity Health Sports Park on August 18, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Though at first glance it looked incredibly promising, the Los Angeles Chargers’ 2019 draft class left much to be desired.

As we review the team’s 2019 campaign, there will be individual report cards for each of the team’s draft picks. Everything in regards to their rookie season will be considered, including on-field statistics and how they meshed with the organization.

We will also go back and look at initial thoughts on each player following their selection last April.

Jerry Tillery was chosen at the end of the first round, a pick many considered great value as it was thought he would likely be off the board at that point. Tom Telesco felt that the value was too good to pass up and selected Tillery, hoping to get a player that would be able to provide a brick wall against the run game while also being athletic enough to get after the quarterback.

After going to the divisional round of the playoffs last season, the general thought was that the Chargers needed one or two pieces to get over the hump and be the top team in the AFC. There were some who believed that missing piece could be Tillery.

He was considered to be a steal when the Chargers drafted him.

Draft grade: A-

Like most people, I loved the pick when it was made. It seemed that Tillery was about as good of a pick that could be made at No. 28 overall. But when we get down to what actually transpired in the season, the grade on draft day and the grade at the end of the season are going to be worlds apart.

Stats

Games played: 15

Tackles: 17

Sacks: 2

Percentage of snaps played: 36.3

Early on in the preseason, it already seemed that Tillery was behind in his progression and might not be in the starting lineup when the season began like most expected. Most also expected that he would soon take one of those spots, but that never happened.

Instead, he was on the field barely one-third of the time on a struggling team. He was losing playing time to the likes of Damion Square and Sylvester Williams, one player who was only added for extra depth and the other who was signed midseason.

He was a healthy scratch against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14, certainly the low point of his season.

When those kinds of players are taking reps from your first-round draft pick, that’s not a good sign.

He did manage to get two sacks which shows that he could develop into a guy who can regularly get after the quarterback, but he absolutely must prove that he deserves to be on the field more often. A first-round pick made on a defensive lineman needs to be a player who is on the field for 90 percent of the defensive snaps, not 36 percent.

What went so wrong?

Recovering from a shoulder injury seemed to slow the progress of Tillery going into the team’s preseason workout programs. But for whatever reason, he never seemed to be able to adjust to the physicality of the professional level and once the regular season started, a double team from the opposition would eliminate him from any play.

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As a first-round pick, much more is going to be expected from Tillery. He’s going to be expected to handle the physicality. He’s going to be expected to get off a double team.

Perhaps Tillery just needed a season to take everything in, but one thing is for sure, his second season is going to have to be completely different. Defensive line coach Giff Smith needs to make it his personal mission in 2020 that he gets the absolute most that he can out of the former Notre Dame star.

Tillery has the athleticism and physical tools to be a great player, but there is an incredibly long list of former football players who were gifted and athletic who just, for whatever reason, couldn’t translate their game to the next level.

Let’s hope that Tillery isn’t one of those guys.

But for now, when considering just his rookie season, he is. His grade for his rookie season must reflect that.

Grade: D

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