Sebastian Joseph-Day brings a load of experience to middle of Chargers’ defense
Having had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last season, the Chargers added what they believe will be 624 pounds of improvement this week.
Tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson agreed to free-agent contracts, both deals announced Wednesday when the new league year opened.
On Thursday, Joseph-Day met with the Chargers media for the first time.
Highlights from the day at the team’s Costa Mesa headquarters:
A Rams redux? With the Chargers, Joseph-Day will reunite with Brandon Staley, who is now his head coach after serving as his defensive coordinator with the 2020 Rams.
The Chargers introduced Khalil Mack on Tuesday and the linebacker and coach Brandon Staley recalled how the two did special things together in Chicago.
Joseph-Day smiled widely — something he does often, by the way — when he recalled his first meeting with Staley. At the time, Joseph-Day was a relative unknown having not played during his first season in the NFL before starting 15 games in 2019.
The Rams’ defensive front that season also had included, among others, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler. Still, when he introduced himself to Staley, Joseph-Day said Staley told him, “I know who you are.”
Staley then proceeded to praise Joseph-Day and tout him as someone on the verge of breaking through.
“Hearing that as a young player,” Joseph-Day said, “that gave me a different kind of confidence.”
Under Staley, Joseph-Day started all 16 games in 2020 and totaled career highs in tackles (55) and snaps (481). He was on his way to an even better season last year before suffering a pectoral injury in late October.
The defense rushes in: During the 2020 season, Joseph-Day had his best grades against the run and overall, according to Pro Football Focus. Last season, he was showing an improved pass rush — with a single-season best three sacks in only seven games — before getting hurt.
But he and Johnson were acquired to — first and foremost — upgrade the Chargers’ run defense. Both players arrive with reputations as stout stuffers up front who have performed with some consistency.
Joseph-Day said that, along with being “strong” and “powerful at the point” and “heavy handed,” in order to play the position well in Staley’s scheme “you have to be intelligent, be able to read what you see, read formations … stuff like that.”
He said the lasting lesson from his previous experience under Staley was the importance of film study.
A year ago, in their first season running Staley’s system, the Chargers struggled early on grasping and executing concepts. Joseph-Day will have no such issues when he joins his new teammates on the field.
Where does Tillery stand? Barring anything unforeseen, the defensive line in 2022 will include Jerry Tillery in some role. But Staley has indicated the Chargers aren’t done adding help up front, so the circumstances remain unsettled.
The Rams added to a formidable attack by agreeing to a three-year deal with receiver Allen Robinson as Robert Woods and free agent OBJ deal with injuries.
On Thursday afternoon, they re-signed veteran defensive tackle Christian Covington, who had a career-high 52 tackles in 16 games as a rotational player last season.
The Chargers appear to be at least one defensive lineman short, with both Justin Jones and Linval Joseph free agents.
Tillery, a first-round pick in 2019, started 15 games last season and has 26 starts over the last two years. He has had his moments but overall has not distinguished himself. Tillery especially has lacked the sort of consistency NFL teams crave.
The intangibles: On Wednesday, Staley noted that Joseph-Day will bring a “spirit” that he said the Chargers lacked on defense in 2021. In his session with reporters, Joseph-Day practically oozed personality.
Asked specifically about the spirit to which Staley referred, Joseph-Day said: “I can’t really explain it. It’s just me being myself. I’m just a happy guy. I appreciate each day. … You’ll have to see, honestly. I can’t really describe it.”
Rumors had the Broncos pursuing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but Russell Wilson was their target all along and keeping that a secret enabled Denver to complete the deal with Seattle.
About more than football: Joseph-Day called switching from one L.A. team to the other “a perfect mesh” since the transition will allow him to continue his off-field interests.
He is extensively involved in several charities and started a program called “Dine N Bash” that highlights and assists local restaurants. Joseph-Day also co-hosts a podcast with Mike Tyson.
“I obviously take pride in playing football and what-not,” he said. “But I don’t try to box myself in as that.”
One more to go: Cornerback J.C. Jackson, the Chargers’ biggest-ticket free agent, is scheduled to meet with reportrs Friday morning. He was undergoing his physical Thursday.
Jackson has agreed to terms on a five-year deal that guarantees him $40 million and is worth up to $82.5 million. That average annual value of $16.5 million is tied for the fourth-highest among all free agents this year.
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