Chargers: Linval Joseph should provide spark to L.A.’s defensive line

Linval Joseph #98 of the Minnesota Vikings hits quarterback Kellen Clemens #10 of the San Diego Chargers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Linval Joseph #98 of the Minnesota Vikings hits quarterback Kellen Clemens #10 of the San Diego Chargers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Chargers made former Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph a notable free-agent signing, and he should reinvigorate a talented group in 2020.

Last season, it was pretty clear then-Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was only a shadow of the former self he was back during his heyday with the Seattle Seahawks.

The 35 year old, approaching the tail end of his career, was no longer the pocket-wrecking force he was known for being during Seattle’s heyday defensive days in the early and mid 2010s. And while defensive coordinator Gus Bradley certainly had reasons to keep Mebane around through 2019, it was pretty obvious the team needed an upgrade.

Enter former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

Joseph signed a two-year, $17 million deal with Los Angeles after the Vikings released him for cap purposes. And based on the stats alone, the Bolts are receiving a considerable upgrade who is both younger and more formidable at this point in his career.

Whereas Mebane’s 27 tackles and one sack would be good enough for a rotational defender, Joseph’s 44 takedowns and three sacks from the interior help suggest he’s much more dogged a defender. Pro Football Focus‘ data also backs up the comparison in terms of both players’ overall grades from 2019:

  • Linval Joseph: 71.2 overall, 69.2 run defense, 62.4 pass rush
  • Brandon Mebane: 48.7 overall, 51.7 run defense, 48.2 pass rush

But the simple stats only tell a portion of the story.

The Chargers don’t generate much interior pressure from their defensive line. They don’t need to, especially when viewing the pass-rushing outside tandem of EDGEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who combined for 18.5 sacks last year.

Quite understandably, this duo should see a spike in production with Joseph present.

How Chargers defense improves in 2020 with Linval Joseph

Like Los Angeles, the Vikings also had a lethal pass-rushing duo in 2019 comprised of edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, who combined for 22.5 sacks last year. Interestingly enough, though, the Vikings finished the season ranked the No. 5 best scoring defense while allowing the 14th fewest yards against (5,465).

In contrast, the Bolts ranked 14th in scoring yet surrendered the sixth fewest yards (5,009) in 2019.

There are far too many other reasons to suggest Joseph was the sole difference maker — he wasn’t and won’t entirely be in L.A. — particularly former quarterback Philip Rivers‘ turnovers leading to shorter fields for opponents. But when looking at the comparisons between the two defensive lines, there are some interesting points to make.

Football Outsiders ranked Minnesota’s D-line fairly low against the run last year (25th) but fifth overall against the pass. In contrast, the Chargers ranked 20th and 25th, respectively.

One of Joseph’s biggest strengths was to anchor the center of the Vikings’ 4-3 defensive alignment. He won’t see too many changes with Los Angeles, as Bradley’s D-line scheme isn’t vastly different and operates the same formation.

Simply put, the 6-foot-4, 329-pound lineman is a notable upgrade for a position group needing some help on the interior.

Next. 3 questions facing Chargers offense in 2020

With his presence, it wouldn’t be too shocking at all to see both Bosa and Ingram increase their output from a year ago, making L.A.’s D-line all the more potent and formidable this upcoming season.