3. Uchenna Nwosu
Out of all the players on this list, Uchenna Nwosu may be the guy most primed for a breakout in 2021 due to the increased opportunity he’ll receive in Staley’s defense.
Uchenna Nwosu, a second-round pick out of USC in 2018, never really saw a lot of significant playing time under Anthony Lynn. Nwosu was mainly used as a situational pass rusher as he has only played about a third of the Chargers’ defensive snaps in his three seasons.
With Melvin Ingram sitting in free agency and Brandon Staley bringing in the 3-4 base defense, Nwosu is in a prime situation to succeed as an edge rusher alongside all-pro caliber Joey Bosa.
In an article about the Charger’s defensive versatility under Staley, ESPN reporter Shelley Smith reminded fans:
“The last time the Chargers had a promising quarterback and an emphasis on defense was when the late Marty Schottenheimer was hired in 2002. He ended up with a 12-4 record with Drew Brees at quarterback in 2004 and a 14-2 mark in 2006 with Philip Rivers at QB.”
Uchenna Nwosu bull rushes Terron Armstead into Drew Brees' lap for the sack ?pic.twitter.com/qmw34zWKEj
— PFF (@PFF) October 13, 2020
Coming off of his best season statistically, Nwosu only racked up 33 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The numbers themselves don’t really jump off the page much. Where it becomes impressive is knowing that he racked up those numbers while only playing 34% of defensive snaps last season.
For reference: Division rival Bradley Chubb, edge rusher for the Denver Broncos was a pro bowler last season and was also drafted the same year as Uchenna Nwosu. As a pro bowler, Chubb racked up 42 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks while playing 68% of defensive snaps.
This is important because Nwosu played exactly half the snaps that Chubb did and would be on pace to put up better numbers than Chubb if he was a significant piece of the Chargers’ defense.
In his small percentage of snaps with the Chargers, Nwosu was very efficient in the role he was asked to fill. Chargers’ fans should expect a big emergence from Uchenna Nwosu in 2021.