Midway through the season, the Los Angeles Chargers have waived defensive lineman and former first-round pick Jerry Tillery. Tillery had never really lived up to his draft placement, though the timing of the release is a little odd, as will be discussed. In three and a half seasons with the Chargers, he racked up just over 100 tackles and 10.5 sacks.
we've waived Jerry Tillery.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) November 11, 2022
Jerry Tillery Waived by Los Angeles Chargers, Cements Status as Draft Bust
A Disappointing Draft Pick
Jerry Tillery was drafted late in the first round in 2019. It was assumed that he would make the defensive line scarier, but that never panned out – certainly not because of him, anyway. He wasn’t bad at getting to the quarterback – in two seasons as a starter, he got 7.5 sacks and had 14 quarterback hits in both 2020 and 2021. However, he struggled in a lot of other aspects of the game. He was prone to missing tackles and taking bad angles – he was a big part of why the run defense in 2021 struggled so much.
It didn’t bode well for him when the Chargers didn’t pick up his fifth-year option during the 2022 off-season. He also lost his starting job, not gaining a single start this season – as such, it was ultimately clear that, barring a miraculous turnaround, his fate had already been sealed. It was presumably either because of that slight hope of him making a late breakout or because they needed him for depth – or both. However, the timing of the Chargers cutting him loose is unexpected.
What This Means for the Chargers Defensive Line
Cutting someone drafted as high as Tillery in the middle of the season out of the blue is a bit unusual. Granted, they’re not the only ones – the Las Vegas Raiders just cut Jonathan Abram earlier this week as well, who was also a 2019 first-round pick. But what is also notable about the timing is that the Chargers just lost one of their defensive line starters, Austin Johnson, for the season. While they promoted fan-favorite Breiden Fehoko to the active roster, that could have potentially opened the door to more playing time for Tillery (for better or for worse). Instead, it seems Christian Covington and Fehoko will get time alongside the other starters Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox.
While most fans would likely prefer the likes of Covington and Fehoko over Tillery, it is still a little unexpected and odd that he would get cut mid-season right after losing one of their starters. It almost makes one wonder if he did something stupid that forced the team’s hand.
While some would say this was already clear a while ago, it is now firmly cemented that Jerry Tillery is a draft bust. He’s a rare first-round whiff for Tom Telesco, who – whatever his flaws might be – has typically done well in the first round. D.J. Fluker is the lone other exception, and Kenneth Murray could become one as well – but the jury’s still out. (Jason Verrett doesn’t count since his career was undone by injury, not by poor play – just bad luck.)
Tillery will likely get another shot elsewhere, just like Abram has (he got picked up by the Green Bay Packers). But the chances of a turnaround at this point are quite unlikely. He was given plenty of opportunities with the Chargers – he simply never lived up to his potential, aside from some ability to get to the quarterback. That might be enough for him to stick around a while longer in the league, but only as a depth/rotational piece.
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