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Camp Preview: What Joey Bosa's Return Means for the Outside Linebackers 


Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon. The Bolts will host 10 open practices as they welcome fans back to Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.

The Bolts are looking for a repeat appearance in the postseason as they enter Year 3 under Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, and have a roster filled with talent and work ethic. will take a look at each position group leading up to training camp. The outside linebackers are up next.

Who's on the roster?

Joey Bosa (8th NFL season; 8th with Chargers), Khalil Mack (10;2), Chris Rumph II (3;3), Tuli Tuipulotu (1;1), Carlo Kemp (2;2), Ty Shelby (2;2), Brevin Allen (1;1) and Andrew Farmer (1;1).

Take a look at the Chargers Defense in uniform at Media Day 2023

Camp outlook

The Bolts still have plenty of star power at this position group as the unit is headlined by Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.

They each remain individually great and should be one of the most feared tandems across the league this season.

Health will be a factor there, of course.

The duo was dominant together early in the 2022 season before a torn groin caused Bosa to miss 12 games.

Mack still finished with 8.0 sacks in his first season in powder blue that saw him routinely take on double teams in Bosa's absence.

The pair both talked openly this offseason about how each feels healthier now than they have in years. The Bolts are banking that holds up and that the tandem's potential comes to fruition in Year 2 together.

Take a look back at the Chargers Mini-Camp 2023 in monochrome

Chris Rumph II will once again be a key special teams player who provides depth at edge rusher.

Rumph had 2.0 sacks a year ago but Chargers outside linebackers coach Giff Smith noted this offseason that Rumph was in position to get a few more if he can simply finish plays.

"Nothing different other than just finishing the play," Smith said. "I really think Chris is good enough to be a starter in this league."

Rumph will be pushed by rookie Tuli Tuipulotu to be the Chargers third edge rusher behind Bosa and Mack.

Tuipulotu, a 2023 second-round pick, was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year a season ago in which he led all of college football with 13.5 sacks.

Carlo Kemp and Ty Shelby have experience in the defensive scheme from a season ago and will also vie for spots on the active roster or practice squad.

The Bolts also have a pair of undrafted rookies on the roster in Brevin Allen and Andrew Farmer.

Quick quote

"I think the mentality of our group is dominating every play. I don't want what we call 'ride the rollercoaster.' We can't be up and down. When we're put in run or pass with 1-on-1 block, we should dominate. That's non-negotiable." — Smith on the mindset he wants from his group in 2023.


Player to watch: Tuli Tuipulotu

As long as Bosa and Mack are on the roster, they will be viewed as starters and key components to the success of the Chargers defense.

But don't discount the impact Tuipulotu could make as a rookie, or the potential he has for the long term.

While the Bolts will surely rely on Bosa and Mack a lot in 2023, they will also need edge depth over a 17-game season. Rumph has been up and down at times in his first two seasons, meaning Tuipulotu has a prime chance to earn playing time this season.

Success as a rookie could also mean Tuipulotu gets on the radar for a starting spot at some point down the line.

Smith has high expectations for the former USC standout as a rookie.

"There's some little things in the league that are a little bit different, but he'll pick up on it quickly," Smith said. "I think he'll be a productive player that's going to be a rotational guy that's going to help us win a lot of games this year."

As camp approaches, Tuipulotu said he's taking a day-by-day mindset for what his first season in the NFL looks like.

"To be honest, I'm just thinking about going out there and having fun and doing my job," Tuipulotu said. "Nothing too crazy. I'm not going to do anything out of the ordinary.

"Just show up and work," Tuipulotu added. "I'm excited for the opportunity and to showcase my ability."

Key question: What does a healthy Joey Bosa look like?

There's no question Bosa is still regarded as one of the league's top pass rushers, even after a season in which he played just five games and tallied 2.5 sacks.

And it was evident the Bolts defense sorely missed him for the three months he was out in 2022.

Bosa's return to form for the Bolts should benefit the defense in numerous ways.

First, the defense will simply get a premier edge rusher back in the fold. That may sound simple, but teams need any and all the pass-rushing help they can get, especially in a loaded AFC that features one elite quarterback after another.

Next, Bosa's presence on one side of the line should free up Mack at times on the other.

Remember Week 1 against the Raiders last season? Mack tallied 3.0 sacks and Bosa had 1.5 sacks while both forced a fumble in the season-opening win.


If the Bolts can get that level of production on a weekly basis, opposing offensive lines could be in trouble.

Finally, the Bolts run defense will also benefit from Bosa being back on the field.

Yes, sacks are the eye-catching stat for outside linebackers. But the best players at that position thrive against both the run and the pass.

It wasn't a coincidence that the Chargers run defense gave up numerous big plays to the outside after Bosa went on Injured Reserve last season.

If Bosa is fully healthy and in elite form in 2023, the Chargers defense should be an all-around improved unit.

"When Joey's healthy, he's a dominant three-down player," Smith said. "I think what people will see is a dominant three-down player that not only dominates in the 1-on-1 pass rush — we know how gifted Joey is in that — but what he does in the run game, too.

"With those two [Bosa and Mack] out there, I think you'll see the run defense] really shoot up the charts," Smith added.

Take a look at the Chargers Defense in uniform at Media Day 2023

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