By Cameron Buford
This off-season, the Chargers continue to reconstruct their defense that gave up the 29th most points in the NFL last season. Their defense also ranked 22nd in interceptions and 29th in rushing touchdowns allowed last season. Their recent acquisitions during the NFL free agent period show they’re serious about improving upon their production from last season.
Since entering the NFL, J.C. Jackson leads the NFL with 25 interceptions. His unique knack for finding the ball will surely pay dividends for the Chargers, who ranked 17th in turnovers in 2021. Jackson is also one of five guys to record five, or more, interceptions in consecutive seasons. In 2020 and 2021, Jackson has grabbed nine and eight interceptions, respectively.
Upon my deep dive looking into the Chargers defensive numbers, I found that no Chargers defender has had more than three interceptions since Jackson entered the league in 2018. In his four seasons in the league, Jackson has grabbed over fifty percent of the picks the Chargers (47) have had in the same time frame. Just looking at the raw numbers alone, you can see why Telesco and Staley went all in for this guy.
“I was pretty shocked,” Jackson said about not resigning with the New England Patriots. Jackson added, “I thought that I was going to be a Patriot. It’s all a business; that’s part of the game.”
“Yes, every year!” That is how Jackson responded when asked about coming into the league as an unrestricted free agent. Jackson also added, “No matter the situation, no matter how much money you make, every year I want to prove myself.” When asked what’s left to prove, Jackson exclaimed, “That I’m the best. That I’m Mr. INT.”
“He can get you the ball, he has rare instincts, rare ball judge,” Staley says of the recently acquired Jackson. “He’s been trained well. He’s been a part of a really good defensive system.”
In his brief time on a Zoom conference with the media, Jackson showed that he is confident and is excited to be a part of the Chargers squad. He let on that his relationship with Chargers all-pro Derwin James was the catalyst for him signing with the Bolts.
After adding an All-Pro EDGE Rusher in Khalil Mack and Pro-Bowl corner J.C. Jackson in free-agency the Chargers weren’t finished. Staley went back to the circle of trust by calling up former Rams nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. The need for Day’s experience stopping the run on the defense was needed for the Chargers to improve their porous run game which ranked 28th in yards per carry and 30th in rush yards allowed last season.
As the 195th pick in the 2018 draft, Sebastian Joseph-Day understands the urgency of producing right away. Pair this with his previous experience under Staley’s system and last season winning the Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams, Day will be expected to be a leader on this defense. Prior to missing 10 games last season, Day has started 31 of the initial 32 games of his career. Day additionally gained some valuable playoff experience last season that he can share with his new squad this summer.
When the six-foot four-inches, Stroudsburg, PA. native, Day played under Staley’s scheme in 2020 with the Rams. They had the third-best run defense in the NFL in terms of yards per attempt and total rush yards. This is the size and the disruption at the point of attack that Staley was missing from his Chargers squad last season.
“’I know who you are. You’re a good player. People don’t know about you yet, but people are going to find out about you real quick. You’re an up-and-coming, great defensive lineman that people are going to find out about.’” Day tells the story, of his initial interaction with Staley. Day then added, “I was in my third year when Staley became the defensive coordinator — that gives you a different type of confidence. I was always confident, but hearing that — then, obviously, the relationship that we built — him caring for who you are as a person, not just as a player, makes you want to ride for that guy.”
“Film study. I felt like I became such a better football player because of it, just watching the film, knowing what they’re going to do based on backfield sets, what the opposition is telling you because of him and the impact he left.” This is how Day responded when asked about the lasting impression which Staley left him with. Day added, “He’s a student of the game. He’s brilliant. I’m telling you; it’s going to be fun. I’m really excited.”
The Chargers were not done with adding to their defensive line. They also brought on 27-year-old Austin Johnson, who was a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Johnson suited up for the Titans, then the Giants. Johnson has registered 173 tackles and seven sacks in his young career. In the 2021 season, he recorded 72 tackles and added 3.5 sacks. It’s expected that Johnson will play most of his snaps in the B gap, which is the role Justin Jones played for the Bolts last season.
This new combination of Joseph-Day and Johnson should bring the size and energy to their front line in the future. These strategic additions to the Chargers defense “of guys who have been through the fire” should better prepare them to make a Super Bowl run.
In the coming NFL draft, the Chargers could look to further bolster their defensive front by adding Georgia’s athletic nose tackle Jordan Davis with the 17th overall pick. Though the acquisition of Jackson and Mack has received much attention, the upgrades to the defensive front may prove to be just critical to their improvements defensively.
Kindly share your thoughts on the Charger’s free-agent acquisitions. Though the NFL off-season just got underway, I think the Chargers have significantly improved their team with their recent additions. Let me know your thoughts by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to read about this season.
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