Training camp is on the horizon, and players are starting to report for their first training camp under first-time head coach Brandon Staley. As the players start practicing on Wednesday morning, here are three positional battles to watch on the defensive side of the football.
Uchenna Nwosu vs. Kyler Fackrell vs. Chris Rumph
Melvin Ingram occupied the spot opposite Joey Bosa for years, but he wasn’t re-signed and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Who will take over for him? That is the million-dollar question. The money is on Uchenna Nwosu, who is going into his fourth season with the team. He has had a rollercoaster start to his career. He has been great at times but has also had games where he went unannounced. In Staley’s defensive scheme, Nwosu could take a step in the right direction.
Kyler Fackrell has been in the NFL for some time and had a 10.5 sack season in 2018 for the Green Bay Packers. He scored a touchdown on an interception last season and had a forced fumble while sacking the opposing quarterback four times. He could quickly make an impact on Sundays for the Bolts if he has a strong camp.
Chris Rumph body-wise is similar to a player who broke out last year with the Rams under Staley, Leonard Floyd. The rookie edge rusher is long, athletic, and could be a good pass rusher. The Chargers may take this year to develop the young edge rusher and give him some snaps.
Justin Jones vs. Jerry Tillery
Defensive tackle is going to be a spotlight position this season. While they will need to get push so that the opposing quarterback is walked into the edge rushers arms for the sack, they will also need to help stop the run. The Bolts are facing a lot of top-notch running backs and will need the defensive tackle to help. Both of these players will be fighting for playtime.
Justin Jones is a former third-round draft pick. He has been serviceable in the past, but the team needs more from him. He doesn’t make an impact at times, and if he will be starting, the team needs him to put his stamp on the field. Jones needs to step up in 2021 because of their tough schedule.
Jerry Tillery is a former first-round draft pick that hasn’t lived up to expectations. His first two seasons have been underwhelming. Last season, he had numerous penalties that turned third or fourth downs into first downs for the opposing offense. In one of his first press conferences, Staley mentioned that he is excited to coach Tillery and feels like the defensive tackle can have a big year in 2021.
Asante Samuel Jr. vs. Brandon Facyson vs. Tevaughn Campbell
On paper, this is a no-brainer. Asante Samuel should win the slot, but he still has to put the work in. He is a rookie vying for playing time.
Samuel is exactly like his father when it comes to playing style. He is a ballhawk, whom many underestimate because of his size, but he makes up for it with ruthless aggression. He isn’t scared to tackle, and in college would take away the best receiver. It will be interesting to see how it translates to the NFL.
Facyson is a former undrafted cornerback that has worked his way into the 53-man roster in the past. He has improved, but it may be difficult to have him in the starting lineup, especially because in the past, he has been prone to get beaten by bigger receivers.
Same as Tevaughn Campbell, who last season was the slot cornerback for the Chargers and tried his best. He had a pick-six, but other than that, he looked lost at times. He didn’t have good recognition against the Broncos in a game the Bolts choked a 21-point lead. Facyson got a pass interference penalty on fourth and four that put the ball on the goal line. He was supposed to be on KJ Halmer in the final play, but he made a mistake and left him open on the play.
It seems like it is Samuel’s job, but he will need to put in the work as soon as they hit the field to claim his spot.