After Chargers cuts, not much depth behind star edge rushers Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack
After that? There’s only Chris Rumph II at one of the team’s strongest positions, which is also one of the thinnest — at least at first glance.
The Chargers also have Kyle Van Noy, who is expected to play on the edge, as well as at inside linebacker. Entering his ninth season, Van Noy has excelled in both spots in the past.
Coach Brandon Staley explained that the expectation is for Bosa and Mack to be on the field a whole lot together in 2022.
“My experience with premium edge players — they play over 80% of the time,” Staley said. “If you take a look at any of the historical good tandems, they’re playing well over 80%, more likely closer to 90 than 80 if you’re as good as Joey and Khalil.”
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Bosa was on the field for a career-high 86% of the Chargers’ defensive snaps in 2019. Last season, he played 77%.
Mack played at least 83% of his teams’ defensive snaps in each of his first seven seasons — including a career-high of 91% in 2016 — before dipping to 69% last year with Chicago. He eventually missed 10 games last season because of a foot injury.
“We’ll make sure that we’re deep enough around them,” Staley said. “But we plan on those guys playing a ton.”
The Chargers have other edge options, including linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, who have played outside in the NFL. Staley said defensive lineman Morgan Fox is another possibility.
In setting their initial roster, the Chargers released veteran defensive lineman Christian Covington in favor of Breiden Fehoko. Covington has spent seven years in the league and appeared in 16 games last season, finishing with a career-high 52 tackles and one sack.
Fehoko, who is entering his third year, secured a roster spot with a strong training camp and preseason.
“He has a lot of the things that you look for in a football player — toughness, physicality,” Staley said. “He’s really smart for a D-lineman, just in terms of how he can really be a general in the middle, be a commander.”
Fehoko originally joined the Chargers in 2020 as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana State. A native of Hawaii, he has been popular among his teammates since his arrival, Fehoko typically playing with obvious energy.
His father, Vili, used to be the warrior mascot at the University of Hawaii and has worked as an entertainer. During the preseason, Vili was featured multiple times on the video board at SoFi Stadium.
“Emotional,” Fehoko said when asked about telling his father he had made the initial 53. “I’ve been cut twice and it’s … he was happy. My mom left me a voicemail. She was tearing up a little bit. My fiancé cried a little bit too. … It’s just been one those rides where I’ve always had to battle from the bottom up. I’ve had to grind for everything I have. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
There were no surprises among the moves the Chargers made to reach the league-mandated 53-player limit. As expected, they kept both reserve quarterbacks behind Justin Herbert — Chase Daniel and Easton Stick.
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“I ultimately think it’s about the value that that person brings to the team,” Staley said. “That’s where it starts for us. We feel like we have three quarterbacks that bring an awful lot of value to our team. The dynamics of this team really fit three quarterbacks.”
Entering Week 1, Daniel is expected be Herbert’s backup, with Stick being inactive on game day. In 2021, Stick was active for only one game and did not play. He has appeared in one game since being drafted in the fifth round in 2019.
“We have a very healthy quarterback situation,” Staley said. “I think if you talk to the other 31 teams — or any team in football, regardless of the level — when you can have a quarterback situation like ours, I think you would take it and feel strongly about it.”
The Chargers also kept all eight of their 2022 draft picks, including cornerback Deane Leonard, who earned a spot over safety Mark Webb Jr., a 2021 seventh-rounder.
Staley said Webb’s bid was short-circuited by his lingering health issues. Webb missed extended time last season because of a knee injury and was unavailable at the end of training camp this month because of a calf problem.
The biggest battle of training camp has been who will start at right offensive tackle for the Chargers, and it appears Trey Pipkins III has beaten out last season’s starter, Storm Norton.
Leonard also has been dealing with injury, a hamstring that has kept him from practicing of late.
“He’s got good size,” Staley said of Leonard. “He’s really, really, really fast. … On special teams, that’s something that showed up for us. Still a work in progress in all phases, but we feel like he’s the right guy to be coaching.”
J.C. Jackson sighting
The Chargers had estimated he would be able to rejoin practice in two to four weeks, leaving in doubt his availability for Week 1.
Among the other Chargers who didn’t practice Tuesday during the media-viewing portion were Leonard, center Corey Linsley (undisclosed) and tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring).
Rookie running back Isaiah Spiller (ankle) returned to individual drills.
The Chargers also waived wide receivers Michael Bandy, Trevon Bradford, Jason Moore Jr. and Joe Reed; offensive linemen Foster Sarell, Zack Bailey and Ryan Hunter; tight ends Hunter Kampmoyer and Erik Krommenhoek; running backs Kevin Marks Jr. and Leddie Brown; fullback Gabe Nabers; edge rushers Emeke Egbule and Jamal Davis II; defensive linemen Joe Gaziano and Andrew Brown; linebackers Cole Christiansen and Tyreek Maddox-Williams; and defensive backs Brandon Sebastian, Ben DeLuca, Kemon Hall, Raheem Layne and Michael Jacquet. They waived/injured tight end Sage Surratt.
NFL teams will begin assembling their practice squads Wednesday as players clear waivers.
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