One of the best parts about pro football writing in the offseason is the hypothetical scenarios we can put together. This conversation actually extends to all things about sports and is one of the main reasons why fans enjoy watching athletes at the highest level – why do you think LeBron vs. M.J. is so popular? So with that in mind, a great hypothetical rundown for Chargers fans as of late is who has the more defensive firepower: the 2022 Chargers or the 2020 Rams?
Remember, the latter was led by now Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and allowed the fewest total points in the league at 296. Prior to this offseason, many Bolts supporters would scoff at the notion of their squad being on the same level as the 2020 Rams, but after some big acquisitions, they might be closer than you think.
For the purpose of this breakdown, I will be using the projected depth chart provided by ESPN for the Chargers. For the Rams, I will be using the final depth chart available for the 2020 season from Pro Football Reference.
Comparing the 2022 Chargers defense to the 2020 Rams defense:
Defensive Line: Donald leads the way for Rams
The 2020 Rams squad on defense begins and ends with their imposing All-World defensive tackle in the middle. Donald earned first-team All-Pro honors and his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award that season thanks to his 13.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 45 combined stops. Joining him were Michael Brockers and a now-familiar face, Sebastian Joseph-Day.
One of the few St. Louis Rams still in the league, Brockers played in 15 games in 2020 and notched five sacks while Joseph-Day performed admirably as the Rams’ nose tackle and run-stuffer (32 solo tackles). The unit would end up as the third-ranked rushing defense in the league at 91.3 yards allowed per game.
For the Chargers, their revamped defensive line is led by former first-round pick Jerry Tillery. While the Notre Dame product has not quite lived up to his first-round billing, he did have his best season to date in 2021 with 51 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. Joining Tillery on this new-look defensive line are Joseph-Day and former New York Giant Austin Johnson.
Last season, the latter was able to accrue 72 total stops and notch 3.5 sacks which is very impressive from the defensive tackle position. The middle of the Chargers' defense was their big weak spot last year as offenses were able to gash the Bolts for an average of 138.9 yards/game which was third-worst in the league. Though the unit has added some solid depth and features some consistent returnees (Christian Covington and Breiden Fehoko), there is a lot of room for improvement here.
Who has the edge: 2020 Los Angeles Rams