Since his selection with the third-overall pick in April’s draft, the anticipation for the debut of Joey Bosa as a San Diego Charger has gone from excitement to frustration to the despair Chargers fans felt as Bosa held out the first three weeks of the preseason. Finally getting his contract taken care of before the final preseason game, Bosa’s next step was to make up for lost time with his teammates and get himself in football shape so that his holdout wouldn’t affect his ability to contribute on the field.
He didn’t have that ability for the first four weeks of the season, with mild hamstring tightness preventing the Chargers from escalating Bosa to full practice participation until last week, and the former Ohio State defensive end didn’t make his first appearance in full pads and uniform until he took the field last Sunday to take on the Raiders. With the Chargers sitting at 1-3 with the defense struggling to contain opposing offenses, Bosa’s impact in his first game - whatever that ended up being - was going to be paramount to San Diego’s defensive efforts.
Looking at Bosa’s snap counts, we can gauge that he’s going to work his way into the rotation early on as a pass-rusher, rushing on 20 passing downs last week out of the 27 snaps that he received. He ended his day with a pair of sacks and seven quarterback pressures, an impressive total for the Chargers rookie in his first career action.
His production, in limited playing time, earned Pro Football Focus’ seventh-highest rating for all players from Sunday’s Week 5 action and undoubtedly, quiets the whispers that his dominance wouldn’t make the transition from the Big 10 to the NFL. Having Bosa on the line helps clear up space for Corey Liuget, and Bosa’s presence makes Melvin Ingram all the more dangerous as an every-down threat to beat single blocking and get to the quarterback.
Finally seeing the No. 3 pick in the draft on the playing field was enough for Chargers fans to get excited about his future, but we also saw how the Chargers are going to continue his development and ascension into a more full-time role in the defense. While the Chargers have found success playing Kyle Emanuel and Jeremiah Attaochu in a run-stopping/pass-rushing rotation across from the every-down Melvin Ingram, on Sunday, the Chargers opted to move Bosa in standing position on numerous snaps and have him rush from a position he was never made to rush from in college.
Bosa’s snaps at outside linebacker are noteworthy, considering his flexibility to play standing up was a question when he was drafted by the 3-4 Chargers. But the Raiders game tape shows that Bosa’s snaps at outside linebacker were still in pass-rushing situations, with Pagano aiming to create pressure on the edge with Ingram and Bosa while plugging the middle with three defensive linemen.
San Diego’s not going to ask Bosa to drop back in coverage anytime soon, but knowing that he can play standing up and have an impact as a speed and edge rusher is encouraging because those were the attributes of his game that were most under question coming into the league.
However, Where nobody had any questions was in his ability to rush from a three-point stance position and wreak havoc in the backfield, and he did that ten-fold against Oakland. His first tackle for loss came on a Raiders third down, as Bosa shed the block of the left tackle and stuffed Deandre Washington in the backfield. Later, he earned his first two career sacks while rushing against the right tackle.
As they move forward, the Chargers are going to make Bosa a full-time feature in this defense, with either Attoachu or Emanuel finding themselves with much less playing time down the road. While the secondary is still reeling from the absences of Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, the consistent pressure in the backfield that Bosa brings to the defensive line is going to create less time for opposing quarterbacks to find the right throw and more opportunity for the defensive backs to take advantage of forced miscues.