Defensive line: Advantage, LA Chargers
The Bengals do have two players in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap who are going to make Tyrod Taylor’s day very rough on Sunday. However, the LA Chargers have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram while also upgrading the interior defensive line tremendously with Linval Joseph.
Both units are really strong and will have big days against two bad offensive lines. The Chargers are just better.
Linebackers: Advantage, LA Chargers
The LA Chargers have a linebacker room that at worst (barring injuries) will be slightly below league average while at best being one of the best dozen or so linebacker rooms in the league. Meanwhile, the Bengals have one of the worst linebacker rooms in the league.
They have added pieces to make it better but it still does not even come close to the Chargers.
Cornerbacks: Advantage, LA Chargers
This isn’t even close. The Chargers have cornerbacks that are headlined by Casey Hayward and Chris Harris while the Bengals’ best cornerback is Darius Phillips, who is good but is not enough to overcome the lack of depth behind him.
Safeties: Advantage, Cincinnati Bengals
I am only marginally giving this one to the Bengals because I am worried about the depth at the position and we have not yet seen Rayshawn Jenkins and Nasir Adderley play alongside each other. If they play to their potential then they will be the better safeties in this game.
However, I am pretty high on Jessie Bates and think he is really going to break out and establish himself as one of the best young safeties in the league and Vonn Bell is a solid veteran who is not great but is consistent.
This mostly has to do with me being high on Bates and avoiding buying in on the safeties without Derwin James and without seeing it first. I easily could be proven wrong in this game.
Overall defensive advantage: LA Chargers
This is not really even close. The LA Chargers are a defensive-minded team and the Bengals have a pretty bad defense. I think both offenses will naturally struggle out of the gate without a preseason but the Chargers defense will just be too much for a rookie quarterback in his first start.