There will be a shift in the defensive scheme with a new coaching staff coming in. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. This coaching staff is coming in with the players having a blank slate.
One of the spots that is up for grabs is opposite pro bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa. That was a spot taken by Melvin Ingram from when he was drafted in 2012 to last season. He was the last component of the AJ Smith Chargers.
Uchenna Nwosu is a name that has always circulated as a replacement for Ingram. He was drafted in 2018 and really made a name for himself when he stripped sacked Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Wild Card game to secure the victory. Since then, he has had his ups and downs.
That is in the past, though, because he has a chance to be opposite Bosa, and he isn’t taking it lightly.
“I’m approaching it the same way I do every season; just be ready to go, honestly,” explained Nwosu. “Working hard every day, making sure I have the defense down pat. Making sure that I know what I’m doing when I’m on the field so I don’t have any confusion. Preparing.”
New head coach Brandon Staley hasn’t said if the team is switching to a 3-4 from a 4-3. All that is known is that they will put the players in the best position to succeed. So, will Chenna’s role change?
“It hasn’t changed, overall, too much,” said Nwosu. “Just a little more drop-in, obviously. Dropping into coverage and playing a lot of the short flats, or whatever it may be. Overall, it’s not too big of a change.”
It seems like a few defensive players that have spoken to the media have stated how excited they are about the new defensive scheme.
“I would have to say just the versatility in this defense,” explained Nwosu. “Always being in the right situation at the right time. He has a lot of different calls and different ways to get in and out of different defenses to make sure we’re in the right call and playing our best, so I’m really excited for that.”
Nwosu has the talent to be the player opposite Bosa. He has shown flashes throughout his tenure with the Bolts, but the question in the past was whether they would give him the opportunity.
That is what Staley is all about, giving opportunities to players who were undervalued. Nwosu has been studying up on one.
“Definitely have been watching a lot of Rams tape and what he did with [Rams OLB] Leonard Floyd,” explained the veteran edge rusher. “He was the defensive coordinator over there. That’s where he just came from, so I’ve been watching a lot of that and seeing how Floyd has been getting free, making plays, what he’s been doing, and try to incorporate that into my game a little bit.”
The players have only had a small amount of time to be around the coaches because OTAs aren’t all that long plus, with minicamp coming up next week, the players will be out for around six weeks.
As of right now, players are trying to pick their coach’s brain.
“He’s coming in, asking great questions, and we’re just going to continue to allow him to grow in the system,” explained defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill. “We think it’s going to allow him to express his skillset, and we’re going to continue to work and see where it goes from there.”
Even though Nwosu is going into his second defensive scheme since coming to the league, he will have to learn some new things. He will be asked to drop back at times and rush the quarterback. He does have ten sacks in three seasons. Maybe he can make the jump that Floyd made last season under Staley.
Even though he is only three seasons in, Nwosu feels like he is a veteran within the pass rushers, with Bosa being away from the team during OTA’s like he has done almost every offseason. So, he has stepped up as a leader the way he did in high school and USC.
“A lot of the guys coming up to me and saying, ‘What do you think of this? What’s going on here?’ Just like [former Chargers DE], Melvin [Ingram III] prepared me to be a leader,” said Nwosu. “His time was finally up. He’s prepared me to be in this situation, so all the credit to Melvin. He’s really taught me. I was lucky enough to have a guy like him be on this team, who’s played in this league for nine years and who had all of the experience that he has had. He was able to coach me and let me know how to teach guys along the way and how to be a team leader.”
Nwosu is looking to pay that forward the way Ingram did for him.
In the last three seasons, it seems like the team’s defense has improved drastically when Staley has taken over as defensive coordinator, and Nwosu feels like this could happen again.
“I know Staley comes from a team where he had the number one defense,” said Nwosu. “So, with the players we got, we know that can carry over for sure. So, we just want to put it all together.”