Imagine allowing a number three overall pick to hold out simply because you didn’t want to give him a standard procedure signing bonus and because you wanted to include underhanded offset language in his contract. Now, with that in mind, imagine that player looking like a generational game-changing talent instantaneously. Imagine that player changing the fortunes of your franchise with extremely limited playing experience.
Oh, how easily this situation could’ve been avoided.
Yes, we’re talking about the San Diego Chargers and rookie defensive end Joey Bosa, and their complete stupidity in the handling of a man whose on a rampage through the NFL right now. Objectively, this was typically how the Chargers handle business with all of their top draft picks. But it doesn’t mean it’s a correct process, and boy is Bosa making them look silly. If you think Chargers fans were fed up with their team’s dealings concerning Bosa in the summer, think about how annoyed they are now after seeing just how good Bosa is.
The Chargers tried to manipulate their bona fide superstar and best player on defense, while Bosa eventually just buckled down and decided to make them regret everything.
Bosa missed the first month of the season as he wasn’t in football shape because of his lingering absence in training camp, and eventual hamstring issues led to a setback. All of the early premature bust labels were being prepared to be tagged on. San Diego, of course, went 1-3 in Bosa’s absence. This was a squad that hilariously blew leads and somehow consistently found a way to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory. This team hasn’t completely moved on from their struggles, but an explosion from Bosa has helped plug their holes.
Through three games, Bosa has four sacks, 11 tackles, and according to Pro Football Focus- a staggering 20 quarterback pressures. That’s the second most in the league in the past three weeks and basically amounts to Bosa getting to opposing passers and influencing their decisions at least six times a game. Bosa has a higher successful pass rush rate than that of last year’s Super Bowl MVP- the Broncos’ Von Miller. Any pass rusher would be lucky to have that drastic of impact on an offense. And he’s done all of this with just 130 total snaps played compared to his counterparts. Across a 16-game sample size of pressures, the only player who has enjoyed the same kind of play to start their career, is Texans star, JJ Watt.
Draw comparisons to a multiple Defensive Player of the Year winner, and you’re going to open eyes.
San Diego has basically played Bosa everywhere on their defense, from end, to linebacker, to even defensive tackle. They’ve figured out, that he’ll have his way wherever you line him up as he’s become defensive coordinator John Pagano’s Swiss army knife of versatility. The Chargers also possess the NFL’s eighth best rushing defense at 90.8 yards per game since his arrival with Pro Football Focus grading him out as a top 10 run-defender at his position. Stack it all together, and there’s practically been no physical or mental adjustment for Bosa, which should terrify every offensive coordinator that has to keep him from setting their game plan on fire.
And it’s not like the competition has been a walk in the park either.
Each of the Raiders, Broncos, and Falcons are all current playoff teams. While the Broncos don’t have an offense worthy of a quality challenge right now- Oakland and Atlanta possess two of the best units and offensive lines in the league. Perhaps not by coincidence, Bosa had his best games as a stat-sheet stuffer against both. Ultimately, if we lay down the cards properly, his addition is probably what allowed the Chargers to come out 2-1 from that daunting stretch.
That is a force of nature- while on a pitch count- on the loose there in Oakland.
Yes, in football, it’s difficult to quantify how much impact one individual player has on a team. There’s the example of a quarterback padding his stats in garbage time while having very little effect on the win column, or in someone such as Bosa’s case- a pass rusher that might not possess flashy numbers such as sacks.
But Bosa patently doesn’t have that statistical problem, in fact far from it. Also, consider that the Chargers lost the three games without Bosa by a combined 11 points. That kind of minute margin is made up for by a franchise defensive end. If only said franchise wasn’t so shortsighted as to have this season possibly derailed before it even started.
Give Bosa the cliche eye-test, you can’t notice anyone else play. He’s so rarely out of position in the running game when he sets the edge and has a unique combination of power and speed when setting up against any offensive tackle. Bosa uses his hands well- as every defensive player should- and looks like a natural and fluid athlete. He’s not as talented as someone like Miller, but he takes advantage of his trademark high motor of effort.
Every note of Bosa’s strengths in his draft scouting report from last April has essentially translated immediately.
The only question now, is when Bosa is named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. For the sake of conversation, you could throw darts at a board to find some company for the first-year stalwart.
Fellow top-five pick, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, has graded out well in advanced statistics too, and looks like a shutdown corner. Ramsey’s teammate, Yannick Ngakoue, is also in the discussion, as he has similar statistics to Bosa, with four sacks and 17 quarterback pressures. Yet, he needed more than double Bosa’s snaps at 300 to reach that plateau. DeForest Buckner appears to be a solid defensive lineman for the 49ers, if nothing else. Finally, Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is starting to come into his own with two sacks and three pressures in his last outing against the Packers.
There are other names to note, but honestly, none of them matter. This conversation has become a quiet whisper.
Provided Bosa stays healthy, he’s not only completely distanced himself from his rookie defensive class, he’s already become one of the NFL’s best players. Any award is a mere formality and the Chargers should be kicking themselves they took this long to unleash the beast.
Robert Zeglinski is a managing editor of No Coast Bias. He is also the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey of SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.
(All relevant statistics acquired from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference)
(Media: San Diego Union-Tribune, NFL, SB Nation)