When the San Diego Chargers drafted Joey Bosa with the third overall pick, many were surprised that they didn’t draft Jalen Ramsey, an offensive tackle, or DeForest Buckner, who was seen as a better fit for their 3-4 defense and scheme as a whole.
However, as the MMQB’s Robert Klemko tweeted shortly before the pick was made, the San Diego Chargers had Joey Bosa tabbed as “their guy” for some time. It’s quite remarkable how Bosa went from being the consensus best overall defensive prospect to being the guy who plummeted down the boards of draftniks for no apparent reason.
Oh, you think his stock fell because of his Combine numbers? Tell me more about how you don’t understand position-adjusted analytics.
For some strange reason (actually the reason is that some people just don’t bother to watch tape, possibly because they have a Laremy Tunsil-like allergy to it), many viewed Bosa as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That must be why they said, “Oh, a 4.86 forty…he must not be a good athlete!”
Stylistically, Bosa is a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s a darn good one. Few players are as natural at winning in the running game as Bosa, because he blends savvy, power, violent hands, and a relentless motor to rack up stops. I hate the comparisons to J.J. Watt, who is the most dominant NFL player to hit the field, and see them as being lazy, BUT I won’t tear you apart for noting similarities between how both play the run.
Bosa’s 40 time would have concerned me a little bit if he played the 3-4 outside linebacker position, but it’s clear from his work as a bull-rusher, run defender, and occupier of blockers that he is at his best with his hands in the dirt. In San Diego, that will come on the defensive line, which is where they need him the most anyway.
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Melvin Ingram is one of the game’s most underrated pass rushers, and Jeremiah Attaochu has been a favorite of mine ever since his days at Georgia Tech. On the other hand, the Chargers defensive line was a nightmare last season, and Corey Liuget needs a better player across from him in order to live up to that lofty contract.
Yes, Bosa is that guy. I bring up his run defense first, because this is actually more important for San Diego. There’s no doubt that putting interior pressure on the quarterback is a high priority for this defense, too, because they need to improve in several areas on that side of the ball in 2016.
But remember, the Chargers allowed a ludicrous 4.8 yards per carry, good for the third-worst average in the league last year. They were almost as poor in pass coverage, finishing 28th in net yards per attempt allowed, but they set the tone (in a bad way) with their shoddy run defense. It’s why the Chargers drafted Bosa at No. 3 and added underrated Ohio State teammate Josh Perry, who deserves a fair shot at starting across from burgeoning second-year talent Denzel Perryman.
Of course, you don’t draft players with the third overall pick solely because of their impact in run defense. I mean, if run defense were actually that valuable, then Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson wouldn’t have been second-round picks.
Never fear, because Bosa’s work as a pass rusher is strong, even if he doesn’t have the best first step off the edge. He wins in other ways that most casual fans fail to notice, but, of course, casual fans cared more about the subpar 40 times than they did the amazing (and far more translatable) three-cone and shuttle times.
This is what Bosa does. He’ll go straight through you and just won’t care. He wins with agility, as evidenced by his Combine numbers, but he also wins with power. This works for him in the passing game as well as the running game.
Though he does not have the speed, first-step, or the length and bend to be a threat off the edge in every situation, which is why he’s a better fit at end than at outside linebacker, the skills that make him such an efficient pressure-maker also allow him to win with outside moves.
That’s almost picture-perfect pressure from Bosa, who violently shoves the right tackle to the ground before hitting the quarterback, and he’s unlucky to have been robbed of a sack here. With an insane 51 tackles for loss in three college football seasons, finishing plays off has never been a problem for the former St. Thomas Aquinas standout.
On the other hand, finishing plays was a huge problem for the Chargers defensive line last season. Liuget led all their DLs with three sacks in 2015, and that tells you all you need to know about the production they received from their front three.
Now with veteran run-stuffer Brandon Mebane and Bosa joining Liuget, the Chargers should be applauded for this facelift (with Jatavis Brown as a potential man in the box to complement). It all starts up front, and the Chargers woes as a defense can be traced back to their inability to win at the line of scrimmage last season. Yes, they had some problems in the secondary, but you can’t tell me that Eric Weddle, Jason Verrett, and Patrick Robinson were a bigger problem than the defensive line.
It should not be difficult for the Chargers to improve as a defense, and with one of the clear Defensive Rookie of the Year front-runners on their roster, fans in San Diego should be excited for improvement.
Verrett is a borderline elite corner, Ingram is a criminally undervalued player, and Perryman can become a star inside linebacker in this league. However, Bosa has the most talent of any player on this Chargers defense, and it’s the way he does the little things that will set him apart from many others in this league. The Chargers were lacking someone who can do the dirty work in the running game while simultaneously making life easier on the secondary via steady pressure on the quarterback, so count me in as a huge fan of this selection.