A year ago, the Chargers’ defense was rebuilt. Now the group is thinking more about the reboot.
Sebastian Joseph-Day explained on Monday that he believes getting to know each other better will lead to better performance.
“I think the chemistry will come together this year,” the veteran defenseman said. “Chemistry is built through trials and tribulations. I really believe this will help us move forward better.”
Despite the influx of proven game and experience, Charging device still finished 20th in yards allowed and 21st in points surrendered. They were last in the NFL against a run, trailing an average of 5.4 yards per rush.
This offseason, their only veteran was a linebacker. Eric Kendrickswho will take over Drew Tranquil. The Chargers also didn’t re-sign Van Noy or Callahan or bring them back. Nasir Adderleywho decided to retire.
Otherwise, the group remains largely intact, and this continuity, Joseph-Day suggested, will make a difference in 2023.
“That’s what we have now, because everyone kind of saw how they play each other,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing – cohesion.”
Joseph-Day likened the situation to a basketball team that needs time to adjust to the different playing styles and different strengths of its individual units.
He also said he’s convinced the arrival of Kendricks, who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before signing as a free agent with the Chargers, will help with defensive communication.
“I think Eric’s presence will definitely help us make adjustments faster – less time wasted, less thinking,” Joseph-Day said. “He will be able to see it faster and let us know about it.
“Honestly, it will help, because everyone plays faster. After all, you can’t play defense slowly. The moment you fall one step behind or miss something, that’s how you get it.”
Joseph-Day and Tranquill got into a heated altercation during a December game against the Tennessee Titans over a communication problem.
The Chargers did not re-sign Tranquill, but instead approached Kendricks, who Coach Brandon Staley was praised for his leadership and production when he played a similar formation with the Vikings.
Although the bulk of the field staff remained the same, the Chargers had a new defensive coordinator. Former minor coach Derrick Ansley replaced Renaldo Hill in February.
Staley will still be in charge of the game on matchdays and in charge of the defense, but Ansley has taken on an increasing role. He last coordinated defense at the University of Tennessee in 2020.
“He has this calm insistence that I really like,” Joseph-Day said. “It’s tense, but calm. It’s really interesting. I really like his mentality. … I think that’s all we need right now.”
The Chargers defense has two major health concerns that they will be keeping a close eye on this summer. Jackson and Johnson are both recovering from season-ending knee injuries.
Jackson has been ramping up his football activity and told the NFL Network last week that he hopes to give 100% by the start of training camp at the end of July.
Johnson was on the field on Monday working with other players in rehab and appeared to be moving well.
The return of Jackson, selected to the Pro Bowl with New England in 2021, will give the Chargers the opportunity to play Asante Samuel Jr. more in the corner of the slot, increasing the depth of protection.
“He has really good instincts, very good balance and body control,” Ansley said of Samuel. “He can communicate and plays well with others inside. He has a unique set of skills that he can play both inside and out, which is why we chose him.”
The Chargers also have a defensive tackle. Otito Ogbonnia recovering from a knee injury at the end of the season. As a rookie in 2022, Ogbonnia made significant strides before suffering an injury in week 10.
Last month, the Chargers used their second-round pick. Tuli Tuipulotu, the latest rusher from USC. Despite being only 20 years old, Tuipulot is able to earn a vital rookie role.
“He’s one of those old souls,” Ansley said. “He is all about football. He is trying to find additional things to help his game. He’ll be fine this way. The older he gets, the more these things will help.”