Take a look at the top defensive photos from the 2016 season thus far.
Brandon Mebane's season-ending biceps injury left a 6-1, 311-pound hole in the heart of the Chargers defense
Damion Square wishes it wasn't necessary to fill. Now that it is, he's eager to step in and step up for his close friend and teammate that is out for the year.
As he puts it, he's never had a teammate quite like Mebane.
"In my career, it's the first time I've been around someone with the type of experience he has in this game," Square said. "Just the way he plays and the confidence he has; it rubs off on me. He was the person I really needed to come through at this moment in time. To see something happen to him like that, it's tough. You don't want to see that happen to a guy you go to war with every day. I'm going to miss my guy out there."
Mebane's impact reverberated throughout the entire defense. While the captain set a high bar for Square to match, number 71 doesn't lack for confidence that he'll be able to do just that.
"There's no pressure; it's an opportunity," he explained. "This is a game of opportunity, and I have been in this situation before. I am confident in myself and know the guys are confident in me. I just have to go out there and be myself at a high level. It'll be good."
Square and Mebane's lockers are perpendicular to one another at Chargers Park. It's been a daily ritual for the pair to sit together and decompress after practice, rehashing what went down on the field as well as what is going on in each other's lives.
Among what Square respects the most about his close friend is his work ethic. He's worked diligently to match Mebane in that department, and knows it will aid him as he steps up in his place.
"I respect just the way he went about working. The way he worked, the way he approached people and he way he carried his character around the workplace (is special). People don't understand how important that is in being an NFL player. Not just the things on the field, but the things off the field – the way he approached people, the aura that he brings to the workplace and all of that."
Although he is in his 10th season, Mebane became an established NFL player from the moment he was drafted. Meanwhile, Square has had to scratch and claw for his opportunities since entering the league as an undrafted free agent of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Cut prior to the following season, he began 2014 with the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Bolts midway through 2014. A member of the active roster, he was inactive the remainder of the year. Square began last season on the Chargers practice squad before earning a midseason promotion, and he's been a fixture ever since.
Those trials and tribulations are why Square knows he must make the most of this opportunity. His journey also makes his success to date even sweeter.
"I look at it like I came into this league and it was obvious that people thought that I shouldn't be here as far as me moving around (to various teams). I was kind of irrelevant since I got hired and fired and (so on). So I was just proving myself over and over again. I wouldn't say I changed as a player. It's just (getting) opportunities. I had to endure to (get) the next opportunity."
It's also helped having someone like Defensive Line Coach Giff Smith at this juncture of his career. Square's strong suite is his attention to fundamentals and aggressive nature. Those attributes are two things that Smith's style rewards.
"The thing about Giff is he speaks a language that I have been hearing for a long time. It's real aggressive. We practice in a real aggressive way, we practice fast and we react to things. It is not really a big time, big play on everything that you do. He just wants you to play really, really hard and really, really physical. That is the thing I like about him. There is a lot of freedom to go out there and attack people. Whenever you know that you have a guy on the sideline that is confident in you, in your flaws and the things that you do well, it makes you play at a really high level. It makes the guys in the room compete, and I think that is why you see a difference with guys in our room."