LA Chargers: Jerry Tillery needs to step up against the Cowboys

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LA Chargers DT Justin Jones is currently listed as doubtful afor Sunday's home opener in Week 2 vs. Dallas. Jones suffered cramps in Week 1 which held him out for most of the second half against Washington. It wasn't a coincidence that Antonio Gibson put up most of his 90 yards in that aforementioned second half.

That leaves the Chargers somewhat thin on the interior. Linval Joseph will still give the line quality push, but he's at an older stage of his career at this point. While Christian Covington will give the team his best rotational contributions, he doesn't quite have the juice of an every-down tackle.

Considering the loss of Jones and the state of the Cowboys' offensive line, the player who really needs to step up is DT Jerry Tillery. Tillery didn't register a single stat in any key defensive category against Washington despite playing the most snaps out of any IDL.

The former Golden Domer also was last in the league in Week 1 with 0.0 pass rush productivity and pass rush win rate. Tillery showed us some flashes of his potential early on in the 2020 season, but we also saw him struggle down the stretch. The production from the second half of the 2020 season unfortunately provides data points which show that a game like Week 1 isn't exactly an outlier for #99.

Brandon Staley said in a press conference this week that Tillery was playing "rugged" against the run. Historically, that hasn't been true and wasn't true from what I saw last week. But if there was a week where it was going to be true, it'd be great to see that version of Tillery against Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

Dallas will be forced to compromise their protections with Joey Bosa facing them on every snap. Whether that involves an OL double team or the running backs assisting in the blocking, it'll open up opportunities for the rest of the Chargers' defensive line. If you're looking at one IDL specifically outside of the DE's, it'd have to be Tillery from a pass rushing standpoint. We've seen him rack up QB hits and pressures before, more actively than say a Joseph or Covington.

A lot of fans consider this a "make or break year" for Tillery in the macro, but for Week 2, the Chargers just need a solid all-around effort in the short term with Jones likely out.