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Camp Preview: Why the Linebacker Groups Will Be Critical to the Bolts Defense

LB Preview

Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon.

The team will host 14 open practices as they welcome fans to The Bolt in El Segundo for the first time.

The Bolts are looking to have an instant impact in Year 1 of the Jim Harbaugh era and have a new-look coaching staff and roster that relentlessly attacked the offseason program. will take a look at each position group leading up to training camp. Next up, the linebackers.

Who's on the roster?

Outside linebackers: Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Tuli Tuipulotu, Bud Dupree, Chris Rumph II, Andrew Farmer II, Ty Shelby, Chris Collins and Savion Jackson

Inside linebackers: Denzel Perryman, Daiyan Henley, Nick Niemann, Troy Dye, Junior Colson, Jeremiah Jean-Batiste, Shane Lee and Tre'Mon Morris-Brash

Camp outlook

The Chargers revamped both their roster and coaching staff this offseason. As a result, the Bolts are now running a new scheme under Chargers Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter.

Expect the linebacker groups to play a big role in Minter's system.

Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack headline the outside linebacker group, a position room that also includes second-year edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu and veteran Bud Dupree.

Bosa and Mack both restructured their contracts this offseason to remain in powder blue. The hope is that the duo can stay healthy together for a full season and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Mack tallied a career-best 17.0 sacks in 2023 while Bosa had 6.5 but played in just nine games due to injuries.

"We want to build on them," Minter said. "They are strengths of our defense. Let them affect the game, do things that they do really well and try to let them have the best years that they've had and thrive in our defense."


Tulipulotu showed dynamic flashes as a rookie with 4.5 sacks while Dupree, a former first-round pick, has 53.0 career sacks in nine seasons.

Both players offer premium insurance in case Bosa and Mack have to come off the field. And there's always the chance Minter deploys three of those edge rushers together, something we saw a year ago with Bosa, Mack and Tuipulotu.

"We want it to be dynamite, but it's a hard-working group," Mack said. "I'll be looking forward to getting between the lines with my guys and seeing how it is when the battle scars come and guys get nicked up and what they're going to be able to fight through, all those different things.

"So we could talk about what we're going to be and all that different stuff but that's never my approach or my mindset," Mack added. "I want to show off and go out and do it. I know these guys want to do it as well."

Chris Rumph III is back for his fourth season while Andrew Farmer II and Ty Shelby are youngsters who have each seen some game action. Rookies Chris Collins and Savion Jackson were signed as undrafted free agents this offseason.

Denzel Perryman — a familiar face who previously played for the Bolts from 2015 to 2020 — leads the linebacker group.

"It feels good to be back. Back where it all started, like I'm back home," Perryman said. "Obviously, there's a lot of different faces in the locker room. Some familiar faces.

"Even in the building, there are new faces and familiar faces," Perryman added. "It just feels good being home."


Perryman is expected to lead an inside linebacker room that saw its 2023 starters move on in free agency. And while Perryman is in line to start, the other spot could be up for grabs between a pair of recent third-round draft picks in Daiyan Henley (2023) and Junior Colson (2024).

Henley got some valuable snaps in the second half of last season while Colson played for Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and Minter at Michigan.

"Tremendous competition in that room," Minter said. "I think it's one of our deeper rooms of multiple guys that have played key snaps in this league and then you bring in a guy like Junior and how he played in college. I'm really excited to see how all that shakes out."

Linebackers coach NaVorro Bowman, who played for Harbaugh in San Francisco, added: "There's no really weak point in our room. Everyone is hungry. The competition level is very high. I think everyone understands that in our room."

Nick Niemann should once agin be a key piece on special teams along with Troy Dye, who was an offseason free agent addition.

Jeremiah Jean-Batiste, Shane Lee and Tre'Mon Morris-Brash round out the rookie inside linebackers on the roster.

Quick quote

"I want to win. I want to be on this team. I want another shot with the guys in this room, especially Khalil. Winning football games is more important to me right now than making some extra money. I think we have a great opportunity here. I think if a guy like Khalil is coming off a year with 17 sacks and can take that cut, it shows the kind of guy that he is and the kind of culture we have brewing here. That's who I want to be with. It was a pretty easy decision." - Joey Bosa on returning to the Chargers


Players to watch: Khalil Mack & Daiyan Henley

Did Mack turn back the clock in 2023? Not according to him.

But in a season in which he had 17.0 sacks and passed 100.0 for his career, Mack was as dominant as ever in his age-32 season.

"I felt like I would look on Twitter and people would be like, '[You had] 17 sacks, but had six in one game.' Damn, is that a bad thing?," Mack said with a laugh. "Maybe I shouldn't have gotten six in one game. Maybe I should've did three."

"Getting to that 100, it's special in the grand scheme of things when you understand everybody is not fortunate enough to play 10 years in this league and had great teammates like I have had and been able to do and accomplish some of the things that I have," Mack added. "Ultimately it's one of those things like, I want to win. I want to win. Yeah you can celebrate certain things a little bit, but I feel like a Super Bowl would feel a lot better than that."

Let's make this clear: Mack is going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

But he's also not getting any younger and made it clear in June that he believes the Bolts are closer to being a contender than some may think.

It will be fascinating to see what he has in store in Year 11, especially if Bosa stays healthy on the opposite side of the line.


As mentioned above, the starting spot next to Perryman will be perhaps the most intriguing battle in camp.

Henley will certainly be one of the candidates after a strong spring showing.

"His athletic ability, man. He's well put together," Bowman said of Henley this offseason. "We're new. We're all new seeing him. It's exciting, just to see the things and the way that he can move around.

"He was here, so you get the first shot to own this position," Bowman added. "Just don't give it up, man. It's early right now, but the level of group one and group two — anybody can go out right now and play."

Down the road, it's easy to envision Henley and Colson as the Bolts starting linebackers. For now though, only one of them can claim a starting role.


Key question: Can Bosa rediscover his old form?

Bosa's past two seasons feel like a bit of untapped potential. Or perhaps just plain bad luck.

Two years ago, a severe groin injury limited the edge rusher to just five games. And while Bosa played in nine contests in 2023, his season was marred by numerous ailments whether it was foot, hamstring or toe injuries.

It was another frustrating year for Bosa, who sounded as optimistic as ever before the 2023 season began.

"I've said I've been feeling great the last couple years, I'm telling you it's the real deal this time," Bosa said in June. "Obviously anything can happen, but it's fun being able to feel confident in your body and being able to perform so I can just go out during practice and go [all out] and do everything that I feel like I need to to be able to prepare.

"It's fun. [People would] be really proud of how I've been working this offseason. Just exciting," Bosa added.

Many teams around the NFL rely on two ideals in order to win. The first, of course, is to have an elite quarterback under center, which the Bolts do.

But the second is to pressure and affect the other team's quarterback, which is where Bosa and his position mates come into play.

If the Chargers want to have a better defense than what they have fielded in recent years, a healthy, resurgent and productive Bosa can go a long way in making that happen.

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