Projecting Chargers’ interior defensive line depth chart in 2022

Over the next couple of weeks, we will break down the depth chart for each Chargers position.


Running back

Wide receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Today, the focus is on how the interior part of the defensive line will look heading into 2022.

Sebastian Joseph-Day

The Chargers finished with the worst run defense last season, which led to the signing of Joseph-Day, who is a top-tier run defender and is familiar with Brandon Staley. When Staley oversaw the Rams’ top-ranked defense, Joseph-Day had a career-high 33 run stops, two passes defended, and a forced fumble. He was on his way to surpassing those in 2021, but an unfortunate torn pectoral sustained in Week 7 kept him out. Still, with a combination of speed, power, and violent hands, Joseph-Day can win one-on-one matchups and eat-up blockers to let his fellow teammates roam freely. Joseph-Day has 55 defensive stops since 2020, tied for 15th. Every other player in the Top 15 has at least 1,000 snaps over the span, whereas he’s put up 55 stops on just 728 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

Austin Johnson

Johnson was also added in an effort to improve the run defense. After spending the first four years of his career with the Titans, who drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, Johnson spent the past three seasons with the Giants, in which he did not miss a single game. After serving as a rotational defender, Johnson became a full-time starter in 2021 and had a monster year with 72 combined tackles while adding 37 run stops, 22 quarterback pressures, 3.5 sacks, and seven quarterback hits. Both Joseph-Day and Johnson can line up as a nose tackle over the center or line up further from the ball.

Otito Ogbonnia

To continue stockpiling defensive linemen to revamp last year’s front, the Chargers selected Ogbonnia in the fifth round of this year’s draft. Ogbonnia tallied 76 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and six passes defended in his four seasons with UCLA. At 6-foot-4 and 324 pounds, Ogbonnia’s time as a former shot putter shows up on the football field as he wins with brute strength and heavy hands to control and move defenders off the line of the scrimmage. Ogbonnia was primarily a nose tackle in the Bruins’ defense, but he occasionally bounced out to a 3-tech. He projects best as a nose tackle and as a ‘jumbo five-tech,’ where he should see the field on run downs.

Morgan Fox

While improving the run defense was the priority, bettering the pass rush from the interior was also a key focal point that was factored in during the team’s offseason evaluations, which led to the signing of Fox. Fox previously played with the Panthers, where he appeared in all 17 games, starting nine of them. He accounted for 34 tackles, 26 pressures, two tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks. Before his stint with Carolina, Fox had his best season under Staley in 2020. Fox played nearly 40% of the snaps and finished with 27 tackles, 25 pressures, eight tackles for loss, and seven sacks. Fox displays a high level of technicality in getting to the quarterback. While primarily expected to play inside, his ability to flex out to the edge should open up multiple options up front.

Christian Covington

Covington was among the few who were re-signed after he appeared in 16 games with three starts, where he totaled 52 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a sack. Signed last offseason, Covington had to play more snaps than anticipated due to injuries up front, but when he is in a rotational role, he can really be a difference-maker in the run game.

Breiden Fehoko

This position could consist of just five players, but I get the sense that Staley will want to be deep here because of the run defense woes from last season. If they roll with six, this will be a heated battle between Fehoko, Joe Gaziano, Forrest Merrill and the most notable, Jerry Tillery. The decision to make the surprise cut of Tillery is solely based on him being the biggest liability against the run a season ago, and it’s worth noting that the Chargers did not pick up Tillery’s 2023 fifth-year option in May. While he brings a solid presence as a pass rusher, Fox offers more value than Tillery in this area. Therefore, that leads to Fehoko earning the final spot, as he proved to make an impact in the trenches in his limited opportunities. On 65 run snaps, he had a stop percentage of 16.1, which ranked fourth, according to Pro Football Focus. As for Tillery, the team could look to trade him for draft compensation.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire