Welcome to Part 7 of our 2022 positional recaps, a series that will run through the next few weeks and highlight all 10 Chargers position groups. We'll focus on key stats, big moments and look ahead to the 2023 season.
We're grouping outside linebackers and off-the-ball (inside) linebackers together in this recap, which means there are numerous players to get to.
Let's start on the edge, where the Bolts boasted one of the league's top duos in Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa when the season began.
The two looked lethal in training camp and in the early portion of the season, but a Week 3 groin injury sidelined Bosa for nearly the entire season. He eventually returned in Week 17 and recorded just 2.5 sacks on the season.
Mack posted 8.0 regular-season sacks, the seventh time he's hit that mark in his career. But half of Mack's sack total came when Bosa was on the field in Weeks 1 and 2, meaning opposing offenses shifted their entire protection plan Mack's way after Bosa went out.
Kyle Van Noy, initially brought in to add depth at inside linebacker, shifted outside and took on a starting role for most of the season. And while he was effective throughout the year, things clicked late as he ended the regular season on a five-game sack streak.
Second-year edge player Chris Rumph II recorded a pair of sack in 2022 as he played in 15 games in a rotational role.
Derrek Tuszka and Jeremiah Attaochu were both added midway through the season as depth players, mostly contributing on special teams.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley praised the leadership of Van Noy and Mack during the season.
The guys leading the way, the leaders up front — Kyle and Khalil — they're keeping everybody together," Staley said. "When we onboard these new guys, they are teaching the guys and taking it even further. I think that those guys deserve so much credit for being able to do that.
"We've adjusted our gameplans to play to the strength of the group that we have, and not ask them to do things that, maybe, we would ask some of the other guys that we started the season with," Staley added.
On the inside, Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray, Jr., handled nearly the entire workload at those spots.
Tranquill was anywhere and everywhere, leading the Chargers in total tackles while also recording a career high with 5.0 sacks.
He also took over relaying calls from Staley to the rest of the defense in Week 4, a sign or growth and leadership.
Murray, a former first-round pick, missed most of training camp and the preseason as he recovered from offseason surgery. But he found his groove as the season went along, teaming with Tranquill to form a strong 1-2 punch in the middle of the Bolts defense.
Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill spoke in mid-October about the connection that was developing between the two linebackers.
"Both of those guys have been healthy, and that's been a huge key," Hill said. "Having those guys, there's not a lot of substitution, different guys in the lineup, and I think that is giving those guys confidence. They're seeing all of the looks, and the more and more that you see looks, the better you play."
Troy Reeder, Amen Ogbongbemiga and Nick Niemann combined to play 84 defensive snaps behind Murray and Tranquill.
Take a look at the best photos from the Chargers 2022 campaign through the lens of team photographer, Mike Nowak, manager of photography, Ty Nowell, seasonal photographer, Mackenzie Hudson, and gameday photographer, Noel Vasquez.
Tranquill put together the best season of his career in 2022. According to Pro Football Focus, he was second among all linebackers with at least 50 pass rushes with a pass-rush productivity percentage of 13.5. He also shined in coverage, too, and had the ninth-best coverage grade at 75.4 among linebackers who were in coverage for at least 500 snaps this past season.
We're going all the way back to Week 1 for this one.
The Bolts were up 24-19 over the Raiders as the final minutes of the fourth quarter ticked away.
Bosa and Mack turned up the heat on Derek Carr to seal the deal.
On third-and-3 from the Raiders 40-yard line, Bosa sacked Carr and forced a fumble that Las Vegas recovered.
That brought up fourth-and-8, and it was Mack's turn to shine and he also had a strip-sack on Carr to effectively end the game.
Bosa and Mack showed the potential they had together in the Chargers season opener. Unfortunately, they weren't on the field together much after Week 1.
Recorded 146 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, eight QB hits, 5.0 sacks, four passes defended, one forced fumble and one interception; appeared in all 17 games (16 starts) and played a career-high 978 defensive snaps (93.41 percent).
Recorded 50 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 12 QB hits, 8.0 sacks, two passes defended, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries; started all 17 games and played 861 defensive snaps (82.23 percent).
Kyle Van Noy
Recorded 46 total tackles, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, three passes defended, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble; appeared in all 17 games (13 starts) and played 734 defensive snaps (70.11 percent).
Kenneth Murray Jr.
Recorded 76 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, four QB hits, three passes defended, one interception and 1.0 sack; appeared in all 17 games (16 starts) and played 719 defensive snaps (68.67 percent).
Chris Rumph II
Recorded 15 total tackles, six QB hits, 2.0 sacks, two tackles for loss and one pass defended; appeared in 15 games and played 301 defensive snaps (28.75 percent).
Recorded 10 total tackles, six QB hits, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble; appeared in five games (four starts) and played 165 defensive snaps (15.76 percent).
Recorded 14 total tackles; appeared in 14 games and played 107 defensive snaps (10.22 percent).
Recorded 11 total tackles, one pass defended and one forced fumble; appeared in all 17 games and played 62 defensive snaps (5.92 percent).
Recorded six total tackles; appeared in all 17 games and played 14 defensive snaps (1.34 percent).
Appeared in two games and played 13 defensive snaps (1.24 percent).
Recorded three total tackles; appeared in all 17 games and played eight defensive snaps (.76 percent).
Take a look back at some of the best Chargers photos in monochrome from the 2022 season
2 questions for 2023
1. What does the edge group look like?
When healthy, this Mack and Bosa showed they still have plenty of juice to create havoc. But Mack will be 32 years old when the 2023 season begins, and Bosa will be 28, as neither player is getting younger.
The Bolts are likely hoping the two can play a full season together and reach the potential and promise that wasn't reached in 2022 due to injury.
Behind them, there could be some movement.
Van Noy will be a free agent and while Rumph showed flashes in his second season, perhaps the Chargers keep replenishing their edge depth with a draft pick on Day 1 or 2.
2. Does Tranquill return to the Bolts?
Tranquill might be the biggest name on the 2022 roster who is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason.
He grew in multiple ways in 2022, whether that was vocally leading pregame speeches or making plays on the field all season long.
But it's always worth remembering that the NFL has a business side, too, and that free agents aren't guaranteed to return to the original teams.
Murray will occupy one of the two starting inside linebacker spots in 2023. If Tranquill doesn't return and start alongside him, the Bolts will be looking to replace tons of production.
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