Chargers all-time starting lineup: The defense

Imagine trying to score against this Chargers defense.
San Diego Chargers v Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers v Pittsburgh Steelers / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

The LA Chargers have had more offensive superstars than defensive superstars in franchise history. For the most part, strong offensive play has been at the core of any success the team has had while defense has always been the weaker point of the roster.

That being said, there are still some all-time greats that put on the powder blue and roamed around the defensive side of the ball for the Chargers. When you put them all together you get a truly scary team.

This is not fully based on the players' overall careers. While that certainly has a factor, we are simply picking the best player at each position from a certain season when they were at their most dominant. We are also going with a 4-3 defense, as that is more common in the game.

Chargers all-time starting defense:

Interior defensive linemen 1980 Gary Johnson, 2006 Jamal Williams

Talk about a dynamic duo in the middle of the defensive line. With Gary Johnson and Jamal Williams together at defensive tackle, the Chargers would be able to rush the quarterback and stop the run at an elite level.

Johnson was a pass-rushing defensive tackle that led the entire league in sacks in 1980 with 17.5. He was an All-Pro that season, earning one other All-Pro nod with the team and four total Pro Bowls. Williams was an All-Pro in 2006 and 2005 and was one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the sport.

Defensive ends: 2006 Shawne Merriman, 1992 Leslie O'Neal

Shawne Merriman was technically an outside linebacker but he definitely would have been just fine as a defensive end. His career with the Chargers was short-lived due to injuries but he was one of the best in franchise history at his peak. In 2006, Merriman was an All-Pro and recorded a league-best 17 sacks.

Leslie O'Neal is the best pass rusher in franchise history from an overall output perspective (Joey Bosa has the chance to pass him if he sticks around). O'Neal's best season was 1992, where he finished with 17 sacks and finished fifth in defensive player of the year voting.

Linebackers: 1994 Junior Seau, 2004 Donnie Edwards, 2022 Drue Tranquill

You can pick any of Junior Seau's seasons and you are going to get an elite player but we went with 1994 as that is when he had his best numbers. He would be the leader on the defense that holds it all together.

Donnie Edwards would be this team's traditional middle linebacker and while he was not a Pro Bowler in 2004, you could make the case that it was his best year. Then we have Drue Tranquill as the other inside backer. That may seem surprising but the drop-off at linebacker is huge and Tranquill's 2022 saw him lead the team in tackles, play a big role in pass defense and sack the quarterback five times.

Cornerbacks: 2007 Antonio Cromartie, 2017 Casey Hayward Jr. (1990 Gill Byrd as the slot corner)

Antonio Cromartie has the best cornerback season in franchise history that is also one of the best in NFL history. Cromartie was an All-Pro with 10 interceptions in 2007. He could never regain that form but he was still a solid corner for the Bolts for several years.

Casey Hayward was an elite cornerback at his prime with the Chargers with the best version of him arguably coming during 2017. While he played more slot later in his career, at this point he was playing outside.

If we are going to sub Tranquill off and put in a slot corner then Gill Byrd is the best option. Byrd moved all around the Chargers defense and would be a solid slot corner to add to this already-dominant defense.

Safeties: 1998 Rodney Harrison, 2011 Eric Weddle

Eric Weddle is a no-brainer as the free safety of this defense and that is not the pick that is contentious here. Many would argue that Derwin James belongs on this defense because of what he has done for the Chargers.

At the end of the day, though, Rodney Harrison was also still very good and his 1998 season is slightly better than Derwin's best season, which came in 2018. Harrison had more combined tackles, more sacks and the same amount of interceptions. Passes defended were not recorded yet but he likely would have had more than James did. Like James in 2018, he was an All-Pro.