LA Chargers News

Pressure is on revamped defensive line for the Chargers vs. the Raiders

By Alexander Insdorf
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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$50 million. That figure represents the combined 2022 cap hit for the Chargers' revamped defensive line including Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, and hybrid EDGE/LB Kyle Van Noy. That number will balloon up to over $70 million in 2023 after the Chargers restructured Mack this offseason.

Tom Telesco realized that he couldn't approach the defensive line the way that the Chargers did in 2021 if they were to be true contenders in the AFC. He was aggressive this offseason in making sure the Chargers didn't repeat their run defense and pass rush woes from the second half of last season.

But after all of the offseason spending and hype, the Chargers' first level of defense will finally face their first test of the regular season against the Raiders. Josh Jacobs and the Raiders' rushing attack have previously given the Chargers lots of problems in the past. There's not much of a need to look further than the Chargers' porous second-half + overtime defensive line performance in Week 18 last year against Las Vegas to see that point.

The Chargers are hoping for different results vs. the Raiders in Week 1 because of how they used their financial resources this offseason.

The Raiders offensive line is also another reason that the Chargers' front needs to make a statement. Sharp Football Analysis recently ranked the Raiders OL 25th in the league while PFF ranked the group 29th prior to cutting former first-round pick Alex Leatherwood.

It would be rather disappointing if the Chargers were unable to take advantage of an offensive line group that's clearly in disarray combined with a massive coaching overhaul in Las Vegas early on. Bosa and Mack have to come out and take advantage of the Raiders' tackle situation while Joseph-Day and Johnson have to feast on a relatively inexperienced Raiders interior.

Another reason that there is quite a bit of pressure on the Chargers' defensive line to carry the weight in Week 1 is the lack of clarity on cornerback J.C. Jackson's injury status. The Raiders offensive line is a sore spot for the team currently, but their receiving options have only gotten better. 2x All-Pro Davante Adams has been added to the fray while Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow have been nightmares for the Chargers in the past.

Given his injury timetable, it seems that Jackson is probably likelier to play in Week 2 than he is in Week 1. There should be some trust in Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, and Bryce Callahan to hold down the fort if he is out, but Adams has caused plenty of problems for even the best cornerbacks in the league.

Pressuring Derek Carr into turnovers, sacks, and poor reads is one way to lessen the impact of Jackson potentially not playing. It's part of how the Chargers won their Week 4 matchup against the Raiders last year-Carr was sacked four times with a 45% pressure rate and threw an interception.

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After how last season ended, the premium Chargers' defensive line needs to show up in Week 1 if the team is to beat the Raiders and gain confidence early on.

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