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How the Chargers Defense Can Make Up for Joey Bosa's Absence


The Chargers on Wednesday placed outside linebacker Joey Bosa on Injured Reserve, meaning the veteran must miss a minimum of four games before a possible return.

Bosa suffered a foot sprain four plays into the Bolts Week 11 matchup and now is slated to miss at least from now until late December.

It was a bit of a bounce back year so far for the longtime member of the Chargers, as he had notched 6.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in nine games, all while dealing with nagging injuries early in the season.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley reacted to the Bosa news Wednesday, noting how tough it is on a personal level and drawing some parallels to last season where he missed 12 games.

"We're going to miss him," Staley said about Bosa. "It's tough for me with Joey because he had such a good offseason and has been totally committed and I thought he was having an outstanding season. He's enjoying the tough side of the NFL but we're going to be there for him.

"He's got to make his way back," Staley added. "What we've got to do is hold the rope for him until he gets back, just like we did last year."

It'll now be up to the rest of the unit — Khalil Mack, rookie Tuli Tuipulotu, Justin Hollins and rookie Andrew Farmer II — to step in for Bosa, as it will take a group effort to try and pick up the responsibilities on the edges.

"We're going to have to do it as a unit," Staley said. "I thought Justin came in and gave us some really good snaps. Andrew is a guy that has been working and is a guy that we think has got potential. And then Tuli and K-Mack are going to continue to do what they do.

Staley added: "But you have to do it as a group, no one is going to take away Joey's production because he's one of the top players in the league."

Check out the best photos from the Chargers Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center

Tuipulotu is now slated to step into a more prominent role with Bosa out for at least the next couple of games — and the rookie knows what to expect.

He saw his workload grow rapidly early in his rookie season as Bosa was on a snap count while battling a toe and hamstring injuries. Tuipulotu played more than 75 percent of the snaps in three of his first four games and had a big role even alongside both Bosa and Mack.

Tuipulotu said Wednesday that those games early on helped him get established to the NFL a bit more, as he now looks forward to stepping in Sunday night.

"I think those game I had to gain confidence in myself because that was my first time starting in the league," Tuipulotu said. "For those games, I made sure I played hard and did my job so I could gain that confidence and be comfortable for times like this.

"Hopefully going to get everything and be prepared Sunday," Tuipulotu added.

Tuipulotu has had an impressive rookie season, getting 4.0 sacks, eight tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits in his first NFL campaign. He also still holds the top Pro Football Focus run defense grade (78.5) among rookie edge rushers that have played at least 20 percent of the snaps.

He has continued to grow, and it's going to be needed even more now as he slots in place of Bosa.

"Growth has been consistent. There has not been any peaks and valleys, he keeps going this way," Staley said while pointing up. "I think he learns more and more every time he goes out there, but you've seen him consistently impact the game in all of our games.

Staley added: "We're going to continue to need him to do that for us."

The loss of Bosa is a big one, and it's also one of the many moves the outside linebacker group has gone through over the last week.

In addition to Bosa, outside linebacker Chris Rumph II was also placed on Injured Reserve last week after suffering a foot injury in pregame warmups prior to Week 10.

And in a corresponding move, veteran Justin Hollins was brought in, even playing 16 snaps in his Chargers debut after Bosa's injury.

Hollins joins the outside linebacker group with experience in the system after stints with the Broncos and Rams during Staley's time in each place.

While he said he's still familiarizing himself with some of the verbiage in the Chargers system, Hollins said the adjustment has been smooth, as he's been welcomed into a room that is always lifting each other up.

"From what I've seen, it's just next man up because we got a pretty good room," Hollins said Wednesday in the locker room. "From Joey, Khalil, Tuli, seems like everybody trusts everybody off the work they put in.

"I'm kind of like the new guy, so they're seeing what I can do, but they trust me as well," Hollins added. "They encourage me, we encourage each other and we're just trying to get the job done as best as we can because we got to be dominant on the edge."

The final piece that rounds the outside linebacker group is Farmer, who was moved to the active roster after Bosa was placed on Injured Reserve.

Farmer, an undrafted rookie out of Lane College in Tennessee, has spent this season on the practice squad, playing in only one game this season. He saw a lot of action and impressed in the preseason however, notching a sack, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.

Coming out of a Division II school, Farmer has seen a lot of growth as a player since joining the team back in May.

And with a group of great veterans around him in the room, he's had the opportunity to learn from the best as he looks to contribute in whatever way he's needed.

"I've grown a lot. Because coming from a small school, we didn't have all the coaches, training camp, nutrition, none of that," Farmer said in the locker room Wednesday. "I've really grown in every aspect, strength, speed, technique from Joey, Khalil and Chris. I've improved in every aspect."

Farmer later added: "Just how to be a pro. Moves, how to conduct yourself, how to get extra work, when to get extra work. You've got to be able to pick their brain on when to play a little loose, when to try and make plays and also how to be a better person. They've taught me in every way. They're awesome."

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