The main culprit in the Chargers' defensive collapse? An anemic pass rush

Alexander Insdorf
Steve Marcus/GettyImages
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The LA Chargers' defense is not what anyone thought it would be going into the season. Former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley finds himself in charge of the 26th-ranked defensive unit by yardage in the league. Against the run, that number falls to the 29th worst group.

Everyone has known about the Chargers' struggles against the run for years at this point. Where they've gotten worse is their defense against the pass in 2022. Los Angeles finished as a Top 10 pass defense in 2021. In 2022, they rank 19th in the league. Narrowing it down to the Chargers' last three games, they're 27th (!!!) in passing yards allowed in that span.

What changed from year to year for the Chargers in their pass defense?

A few things. The gaping hole in their defense right now is of course the loss of Joey Bosa for the last two months. It goes without saying that every single defense in the NFL would be worse when removing a top-five EDGE player off the field. The terrorizing Bosa-Mack pass rush sandwich that the Chargers' envisioned coming into 2022 has sadly not come to fruition.

Injuries exist on the interior as well. Austin Johnson, Christian Covington, and Otito Ogbonnia are three key interior players that are done for the season. On top of the injury bug, LA cut Jerry Tillery due to a disagreement in philosophy going forward. A lot of defensive stress has now fallen solely on Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox to create pressure in the middle.

That is in theory what Fox signed up for, but Joseph-Day wasn't really brought to the Chargers to be a primary pass rusher. Fox and Tillery were also supposed to work hand in hand to begin with.

Considering the injury and personnel situations, it's understandable why quarterbacks like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo in recent weeks have been able to sit back in the pocket all day. The Chargers didn't record a sack on Carr against the Raiders for the first time in a game since the 2014 season last week.

It can't all be blamed on injuries though. The Chargers' EDGE players outside of Bosa have not performed as expected:

Kyle Van Noy was brought in to be a reliable EDGE 3 to Bosa and Mack. He hasn't been able to step up this season relative to his expectations. The former Patriots' defensive stalwart has not recorded a sack on the year. The same is also true for Chris Rumph. Of course, the Chargers were never going to be able to fully replace Bosa's production, but it's still paltry production even considering that.

Calling a spade a spade: Khalil Mack has also been fairly disappointing. On the season he has seven sacks, most of which occurred in September with Bosa. On the stat sheet against the Raiders, Mack had three tackle assists and not much else. Technically speaking he had five pressures, but it sure didn't feel like it to those who watched the game. Not to mention, he isn't getting double-teamed on film nearly as much as some Chargers fans make it seem.

In addition to this, the Chargers weren't as creative in manufacturing pressure against the Raiders as they were previously against the Niners or Cardinals. Drue Tranquill, Derwin James, or Michael Davis weren't used to shoot through the gaps like they were in some spots previously.

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In short, the Chargers' anemic pass rush has compounded their previous issues in the secondary and run defense. The team desperately needs a presence like Bosa back, but outside of that the rest of the unit has been a severe disappointment relative to some of the offseason expectations.

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