Can Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack be difference-makers for the Chargers?

Just give us one more year… This was the pact created between Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on the plane home from Jacksonville in January.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In March of 2022, the LA Chargers acquired Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. There was excitement amongst fans and media members alike about the potential of the Chargers’ pass rush.

However, Mack and Joey Bosa only seeing the field together in five games meant that this potential remained as just that, potential. How much does that potential still carry over for 2023?

The ceiling is still high for this pairing and, despite the general pessimism around the defense, fans should be optimistic about how an uptick in pass rush can level up the entire unit.

If we rewind to Week 1 last year against the Las Vegas Raiders, Bosa and Mack combined for 6 QB hits, 4.5 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles. Derek Carr was under constant fire to the tune of 16 total pressures (Bosa 9, Mack 7).

It was a dominant performance littered with game-altering, splash plays from both players. Despite this, Mack still maintained that it “wasn’t good enough”The following week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Bosa and Mack combined for 3 QB hits, 2 TFLs, and a sack.

Bosa injured his groin in Week 3 after 13 snaps and did not return to action until New Year’s Day. Against the LA Rams, he only played 49% of the defensive snaps. Even in the AFC Wild Card Game, Bosa only managed 51%. So in reality, the first two weeks of the 2022 season were the only time in wihch we saw Bosa and Mack together at close to full speed.

Despite this small sample, there is enough of a glimpse of their potential, especially thinking back to the preseason fanfare.

Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack can still be very special for the Chargers.

Bosa and Mack ranked among the top-5 edge-rushing duos in the NFL and for good reason. Both players had extremely high pass-rush win rates with both ranking in the top 10 from 2016-2021,according to PFF. It wasn't just the insane counting stats and advanced metrics, but it was also Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. There’s a certain amount of brand recognition that follows both players.

Both of these guys have always been difference makers, so what’s stopping them from being unstoppable together?!

As fans, we were thinking that Khalil Mack was the guy that the Chargers always needed across from Bosa. This could really vault the Bolts' defense up a level to truly be championship caliber.

So looking ahead to 2023, Bosa is motivated, not in chronic pain, and has been at Jack Hammett earlier in the offseason. Mack is settled in Los Angeles, not on the tail-end of recovering from a foot injury, and ready to saddle up for one more year. Whether they are the number one duo by whatever metric you wish to use, I believe that Bosa and Mack can be true difference-makers for the defense and the team as a whole.

The exponential factor is that, if they stay healthy (that’s always the qualifier, right?), not only will the pressure be generated up front, but that also makes things easier for Derwin James and the rest of the LA secondary.  

The downside is that it feels like one final push. Not only for this duo but for this version of the Chargers.

Mack is a potential cut candidate after 2023 due to the Chargers' cap pressure. It’s all in. That said it is all there for the Chargers with their star rushers spearheading the defensive drive.

Perhaps this urgency can be the driver. It feels like the final roll of the dice for a number of Chargers players. Maybe for the coaching staff too, maybe even some front office staff. Perhaps this will means that the lemon is truly squeezed by all, and a deep Superbowl run is made.

For me, this question still rings true, what is stopping them from being unstoppable together?