Just like the offense, this unit has suffered many key injuries. Manti Te’o, Nick Dzubnar, and Jason Verrett were lost early, and now Brandon Mebane is lost for the year. On top of that, Brandon Flowers and Jahleel Addae have been banged up virtually the whole year. Though the unit has suffered injuries, young players have stepped up, and the defense has been a productive unit. Let’s review the year thus far and grade each position.
The D-Line has been good without being spectacular. Brandon Mebane has been a solid addition, though he is now out for the year. Corey Liuget hasn’t been as good as seasons past, as he’s still looking for his first sack in 2016. San Diego will need Liuget to improve if they plan on contending for a playoff spot in the coming years. Caraun Reid was impressive in his limited time on the line, but he was injured by some friendly fire as Denzel Perryman speared his knee while trying to make a tackle. Tenny Palepoi has been serviceable as well. He was a nice pickup by Telesco and the Chargers.
This unit has been outstanding. Melvin Ingram has six sacks so far and has been a constant presence in the opponent’s backfield. But the star of the unit has been rookie Joey Bosa. Ever since he stepped on the field in Oakland for his debut, he’s been a star. He has four sacks and practically lives in the face of the QB. He is only growing as a pass rusher. The Chargers have an exciting future with Joey Bosa on defense. Jeremiah Attaochu has been banged up recently, but he has a tremendous motor as well and rotates with Ingram and Bosa when the trio are all healthy.
This unit, like the wide receiver group, has been hit hard by injuries. First Manti Te’o was lost for the season, and now both Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown are sidelined with their respective injuries. However, both are expected to return after the bye week. That is good news for the team. Brown and Perryman have been awesome so far this season. They cover sideline to sideline, and are devastating tacklers as well. Joshua Perry and Kyle Emanuel have also seen some time in the middle. Emanuel has done an excellent job as he is traditionally an edge rusher.
After losing Pro Bowl CB Jason Verrett, many thought this unit was doomed, but Casey Hayward has filled in admirably. He currently has five interceptions and has shadowed the opposition’s best target week in and week out. Flowers has been up and down all year, but he’s been solid overall. Concussion issues have limited him to a certain degree and he is presently banged up. Craig Mager has also battled injuries. The second year DB needs to improve on his footwork as well if he wants to grow as a player.
The safeties have been a little below average. Both Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery have their flaws, but John Pagano has found a way to minimize them. Still, you want to see more big plays from the safety position, and right now the team is getting just steady but unspectacular play. Lowery had that reputation around the league and he has proven to be just that. Average. Eric Weddle is missed more for the intensity and fire he brought to the team than his physical abilities. Adrian Phillips has played well at times but has battled injury issues. Dexter McCoil looked to be someone to keep an eye on, but he has regressed at the position from early in the year. He has size, but lacks lateral movement and speed to be truly effective.
Overall, I think this team is very talented and that’s been proven every week. Most of the losses have been because of questionable coaching. The season is not over, and the team still has an outside shot of making the playoffs, but they will probably need to run the table in order to get there. They also need a ton of help. No more injuries would be nice too.