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Chargers

Powerful veteran Linval Joseph should improve Chargers’ interior pass rush

Linval Joseph enters the field before a 2017 Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints game.
Linval Joseph runs onto the field during introductions before the Minnesota Vikings’ game against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 11, 2017.
(Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)

As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 4 of 10: defensive line.

Looking to add muscle to their interior defensive front, the Chargers last month acquired a powerlifter.

Linval Joseph excelled in the sport growing up in Florida, where he also was accomplished at the discus and shot put.

He signed with the Chargers as a free agent in March to take over at nose tackle after the team cut Brandon Mebane to open salary cap space.

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“I’ve been strong all my life,” Joseph said after signing a two-year deal worth up to $17 million, “naturally strong.”

Making up for the loss of Thomas Davis at linebacker will be a challenge for the Chargers, but the addition of tackle magnet Nick Vigil should help.

A second-round pick in 2010, he spent the first four years of his career with the New York Giants and the last six with Minnesota.

Joseph, 31, has made two Pro Bowls and always been productive, averaging 58 tackles a season since 2011 and compiling 24 career sacks.

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He said the Chargers had indeed told him his assignment would include getting to the quarterback, something the team hoped would come last season from rookie Jerry Tillery.

But Tillery, who had two sacks, struggled with consistency and often was overpowered by double teams.

“I’m excited to put my head down and kick my foot back and get off the ball like I used to do in college,” said Joseph, who played at East Carolina. “It’s just driving, having that motor, not giving up on the play.”

Linval Joseph pressures Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Linval Joseph pressures Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sept. 15, 2019, at Lambeau Field.
(Dylan Buell / Getty Images)
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Joseph providing a push inside would only help Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edges. The trio figure to give opponents headaches in preparation and on game day.

“Two young, explosive guys,” Joseph said of the Chargers’ celebrated defensive ends. “I’m excited to have them. By having those two guys, hopefully the quarterback will step up and I’ll be able to put my hands on him.”

Bosa finished 2019 with 11.5 sacks and Ingram with seven. Both are entering the final seasons of their contracts, so changes appear to be coming.

The Chargers would love to re-sign Bosa, something that might not happen until next year, when the salary cap is forecast to substantially increase.

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The Chargers badly missed one of their best playmakers, Derwin James, on defense last season. With his return, their secondary looks deeper.

Under contract for 2020: Ingram ($16.625 million), Bosa ($14.36 million), Joseph ($5.5 million), Tillery ($2.595 million), Justin Jones ($963,535), Isaac Rochell ($825,000), Cortez Broughton ($694,580), P.J. Johnson ($610.000).

Free agents: Mebane was a team captain and popular in the locker room. He was deemed expendable, however, when cap space became a priority. Joseph, who won a Super Bowl with the 2011 Giants, is expected to supply some of the same leadership Mebane did.

Draft: The Chargers used their first-round pick in 2019 on Tillery, whose continued development is one of the keys for the defense. There is room to add additional depth up front.

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Adding stud cornerback Chris Harris to the defense means the Chargers will not have to expend a high pick on the position in the NFL draft.

Roster decisions: Broughton had his rookie season cut short because of a lingering bout with mononucleosis. A seventh-round pick a year ago, he appeared in only two games and had five total tackles. The Chargers would love to give him a longer look in 2020.

NEXT: special teams.


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