LA Chargers: Why Justin Jones is such a vital piece to the defense

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(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) – LA Chargers /

Justin Jones makes Jerry Tillery a more dynamic weapon

The breakout defensive start in those first two games was Jerry Tillery. Racking up five quarterback hits and a sack vs. Cincinnati and Kansas City, it felt like he was on pace to be the most improved player on the LA Chargers by far. In the last three weeks, Tillery has had one quarterback hit with zero sacks.

What the biggest reason for Tillery’s fall back to earth? The lack of Jones. Tillery’s snap count has shot up in the last few weeks because he’s had to play the defensive interior more and more instead of focusing on the pass rush.

In the first two weeks, Tillery’s defensive snap percentage average was 55.5%. The former Notre Dame product didn’t have to do the dirty work in the run game all that often because Jones was there. He could focus almost exclusively on pass-rushing while conserving his in-game energy better.

That snap percentage has shot up in the last three weeks due to Jones’ injury. Tillery has been playing an average of 79.7% of the snaps in the last three weeks as he’s had to pick up some of the slack. Playing a significantly higher snap count in addition to defending the run more frequently is a key reason that his impact as a pass rusher has been muted.

Everyone knew the Chargers drafted Tillery to be more of a pass rusher to go along with Jones’ run-stuffer role. Unfortunately, he’s had to play both roles in the last three weeks, which clearly has lowered his effectiveness.