It’s been a quite bumpy year for the Los Angeles Chargers, one that appeared to be falling short of expectations. One issue that has been a sticking note for fans in particular has been the underperforming of the Chargers defense. Despite adding multiple stars in free agency, there had not been notable improvement shown – and then injuries started playing a role. However, over the last two games for them, the defense has begun to step up and play the way we hoped, helping their team to 8-6 – even with Derwin James, arguably their most critical defensive star, missing both games.
Los Angeles Chargers Defense Has Shown Improvement Over Last Two Games
If there was going to be a time for the Chargers defense to break out, it probably wouldn’t have been expected to be against the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans – and certainly not with Derwin James out, who has often proven critical. The Dolphins have had one of the more high-powered offenses in the league, and while the Titans are in the midst of a skid, they still had Derrick Henry to contend with.
However, it did prove to be very good timing for them. After losing to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13 and falling to 6-6, the Chargers had their backs up against the wall and now had two actual playoff contenders to deal with. Now they have come in with as much fight and resiliency as we have seen all year – even with multiple starters missing.
Players Stepping Up
While guys like Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day have been doing their best to take care of business, it’s been some of the unexpected names that have made a difference as well. In Week 14, when Bryce Callahan was out, rookie cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor stepped in and played very well, holding his own against the likes of Jaylen Waddle and also playing a role in run defense. Even when Callahan returned in Week 15, they kept Taylor in the rotation for run defense purposes.
Michael Davis also stepped up big time in Week 14 as well. He’s been a solid enough starter in the past, but he slid down the depth chart when better cornerbacks got added for a reason. However, he held his own against Tyreek Hill of all people, only giving up one big play due to stumbling. Nasir Adderley has also made an impact, pulling in an interception in Week 15. Kyle Van Noy has been doing more on the line as well as of late, getting a sack in both of the last two games. Chris Rumph II stepped up in Week 15 too, registering two quarterback hits and a sack.
Keeping Opponents Locked Down
The Los Angeles Chargers defense held both the Dolphins and Titans to less than 20 points. They had not done that to any team since Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, and only had done that three times total all year prior to Week 14.
Locking down the Dolphins was more of a challenge, though, and they did that quite impressively despite James, Callahan, and Joseph-Day all being out. It was mostly more of the same against the Titans – they weren’t able to stop Derrick Henry from having a 100-yard day, but that’s nothing to be ashamed about. They did keep Ryan Tannehill from doing much until the final drive. There has been a lot more pressure from the defensive line lately – multiple backups are stepping up and doing their job to make that happen. But the defensive backs have been doing well too. Ja’Sir Taylor looks to be a promising player for the future, and even guys like Alohi Gilman and Nasir Adderley have made a few plays. Ultimately, we have simply seen a stronger unit the last two weeks – playing in a way that we just have not seen most of the season.
The Dolphins and Titans were the last two tougher opponents the team was going to have to face this year. The Chargers are now directly in the playoff picture and have three easier opponents ahead in the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, and Denver Broncos. The performance ought to only improve when Derwin James returns from injury. And if Joey Bosa finally is able to make his way back from injury late in the season, this defense might be able to cause even more problems for opposing quarterbacks – both now and in the playoffs.
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