Back in Week 11, Joey Bosa stepped onto the field for the first time this season in a matchup against the Denver Broncos. Since then, Bosa has shaken off the rust and added 4.5 sacks to his career record. Now as the AFC West rivals meet again for the regular season finale, Broncos Head Coach Vance Joseph knows his team will have to put up a fight against the healthy one-two punch of Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
"Obviously, the front starts with those two edge rushers in Bosa and Ingram," Joseph said. "They're both playing at a high level. Bosa's been back five games. He's got four and a half sacks, so that tells you if he played the whole season, he would've been in the Pro Bowl also. Ingram is a guy that we always have to account for and have a protection plan to get him blocked."
But the Bolts' eighth-ranked total defense doesn't stop there. Two players have caught Joseph's eye as the ones who can easily shake up a game.
"It's a young, aggressive secondary that makes plays on the ball," Joseph noted. "Derwin James obviously is a great player, being close to the box and covering tight ends, dropping in coverage and blitzing. One thing that he does well that gives offenses problems is blitzing."
Derwin James has made a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, leading the team with 103 tackles and racking up 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. Meanwhile, second-year defensive back Desmond King has also had a standout year, tying James with a team-high three interceptions, one of which he returned for a 42-yard touchdown against Seattle.
Browse through some of the best shots from practice as the Chargers prepare to take on the Broncos at Mile High on Sunday.
"(King) is a good football player," Joseph added. "I remember watching him coming out and I wasn't sure what he was going to play for us, but you knew he was going to be a good football player. Tackler, cover guy and as a return guy, he's changed games. I think that guy needs to be mentioned as one of the guys that makes a difference with this football team."
As a team that faces the Bolts twice a year, the Broncos know Philip Rivers' talents, yet they've noticed a difference this year. Rivers is playing his best ball and is surrounded by high-powered weapons who help make that happen. That offense, combined with the threatening defense, makes the well-balanced team a challenge for opponents.
"They're still an offense that you have to do your best to have a chance to slow them down," Joseph said. "When I watched the offense, the difference in the last month I think (is) Mike Williams has found his voice as a top 10 pick. He is a guy that's making a lot of plays on reverses and sweeps and making plays down the field. He's playing with big time confidence and when you combine both Williams guys and Keenan (Allen) and both backs, along with Gatesy (Antonio Gates) on third downs and Virgil (Green) on first, second downs, it makes it a tough out for any defense facing this team. … It's an overall team that's playing really well and they're going to be a tough out Sunday and moving forward in the playoffs."