Darius Philon was the talk of training camp.
The second-year defensive end saw an increase in reps in Joey Bosa’s absence, making the most of it as he impressed with his high motor and explosive power.
Philon continued to make his presence felt early in the season, notching nine tackles, three pressures, two QB hits and one tackle for loss as part of the rotation in the team’s first five games. He also started the first two games of his career.
However, with the return of Bosa and Damion Square, he fell victim to a numbers game and was a healthy inactive the past two weeks.
That could change this week against the Denver Broncos.
With Caraun Reid out of the year with an ACL injury, Philon is primed to be active once again for the Chargers. Although his attitude remains the same as ever, he says he has a burning fire in his belly to prove himself all over again on the field.
“My mindset is the same I’ve had every day,” he explained. “I just want to help this team win. Nothing has changed. It is always hard to sit on the sideline during the game watching my brothers play ball. But I understood (every defensive lineman) couldn’t be active. But it does light a fire under me to go out there and help this team win.”
The decision to scratch Philon the past two games has been a difficult one for Head Coach Mike McCoy. But with the way Reid, Square and Tenny Palepoi were playing backing up Bosa, Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget, there was no way to get number 93 active.
“It is tough every week to tell him that he is down,” McCoy admitted. “(The same with) the rest of the seven players that you have to put down every week. It is not easy. But I think when you have the type of team we have and the way guys work like we referred to earlier, there are some tough decisions every week for us.”
Fortunately, the Bolts believe they won’t miss a beat whenever Philon does take the field.
“It is an unselfish group of players (on the defensive line),” McCoy noted. “Injuries are a part of the game, but it is an opportunity now for someone to step up like Darius. He has been down the past couple weeks and you talk to him about it (and explain) why you are doing it. You say ‘Hey, when it is your opportunity, it is going to come at some point in time probably during the year, because the way the game goes and it is a long season. When you get back out there, do what you have to do and make a tough decision on us (about who to play).’”
Defensive Coordinator John Pagano echoed McCoy’s assessment.
“It is his opportunity now. He started out in the rotation. The depth creates competition (and) competition at practice creates guys having to push one another to work harder. (Defensive Coordinator) Giff (Smith) does it the best way of who practices correctly and does things correctly in games. Then you get those opportunities to do those things. I think it shows (how) competition always breeds success. I think that is huge for any position crew. To have that type of depth to be able to push one another. Darius has been working hard, doing a great job and it his time. (It’s) his opportunity now this week and you make the most of that opportunity.”