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Chargers Training Camp Preview: Defensive Line

The Los Angeles Chargers hold OTA’s on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
The Los Angeles Chargers hold OTA’s on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa, CA.

Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon, as the Bolts will soon return to work to get ready for the 2022 season. The Chargers will host 10 open practices as they welcome fans back to Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.

What's in store for the Bolts in camp? Expectations are high, as second-year Head Coach Brandon Staley leads a roster focused on physicality that added numerous new faces this offseason. will take a glance at each position group leading up to training camp, continuing with the defensive line.

Who's on the roster?

Sebastian Joseph-Day (5th year in NFL; 1st year with Chargers), Austin Johnson (7; 1), Jerry Tillery (4; 4), Morgan Fox (6; 1), Christian Covington (8; 2), Otito Ogbonnia (1; 1), Joe Gaziano (3; 3), Breiden Fehoko (2; 2), Andrew Brown (3; 2) Forrest Merrill (1; 1).

Camp outlook

A handful of fresh faces headline this group, as the unit overall looks for a bounceback season in 2022.

The Bolts focused on the defensive line in free agency this past spring, signing Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson on back-to-back days, all while re-signing Covington to the roster.

Joseph-Day didn't have to go far, as he spent the first three years of his career with the Rams. He'll be among the leaders tasked to help improve a run defense that ranked near the bottom of the league a year ago.

Johnson will be part of that group, too, as he is coming off a career season in 2021 with the Giants. He started all 17 games — registering 3.5 sacks to double his career total — and added a fumble recovery and six tackles for loss.

Tillery and Fox could be among the candidates to also start up front. Tillery, a 2019 first-round pick out of Notre Dame, has 9.5 career sacks, including a career-best 4.5 in 2021. Fox was a veteran addition with 69 games, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in his career.

Covington, who provides strong depth, started three games for the Chargers a year ago. Ogbonnia, a fifth-round pick this spring, could also carve out a role for himself.

Gaziano and Fehoko return to the Bolts after seeing some action in recent years. Gaziano has played 16 games with one start over the past two seasons, while Fehoko has played in 10 games with a start.

Brown was also with the Bolts in 2021, playing in a pair of games. Merrill spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad in 2021.

Take a look at some of the best shots of Sebastian Joseph Day's 2022 offseason

Quick quote

"I think, certainly, Austin and Sebastian have established themselves, and we're really expecting a lot from them. That's why we went and signed them in free agency. I think that you guys can expect those guys in there, for sure. But, then, how that that front is built, there's a lot of time between now and our first game. I think by bringing in more depth, now you can really establish each guy's role within the system because we play a lot of packages — you can really establish their roles and really get them doing what they do best." — Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley on the additions of Johnson and Joseph-Day.

One big question… Do the Chargers now have the depth up front defensively to withstand injuries?

A year ago, the Chargers' run defense famously struggled, and the struggle was no more real than when Justin Jones and Linval Joseph were hurt. Both big bodies left even bigger gaps their reinforcements had a difficult time filling. Jerry Tillery was the only lineman in 2021 who played at least half of the Chargers' defensive snaps. He finished just below 74 percent, which was the fourth-highest total on the team. Jones and Joseph are no longer with the Chargers, though Tillery remains, entering the final season of his rookie contract. But the fact Tillery could play a lower percentage of snaps in 2022 illustrates how much the Chargers have attempted to beef up their defensive front. The signed Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to be starters. They also signed Morgan Fox, re-signed Christian Covington and drafted Otito Ogbonnia out of UCLA. Behind that group, comes holdovers Breiden Fehoko, Forrest Merrill and Andrew Brown. The numbers — and the experience, particularly running this scheme — sound impressive. But it might not be until, say, mid-season, when the injuries likely will start adding up, that we'll know the answer to this question. — (By Jeff Miller of the LA Times).

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