The Chargers pass rush has come alive over the last couple of weeks, becoming one of the driving forces of the current two-game win streak to get back at .500.
After an 8.0 sack performance as a team in Week 9, the Bolts now sit with the second-most sacks in the NFL with 31. They also lead the NFL with 19.0 sacks on third downs this season and are one of only two teams in the league to have four players with 4.0 sacks.
There are multitude of reasons for the success, including the health of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, but it's been the depth when getting after the quarterback that has shined to most, as almost every game it's someone else making a play.
And in the middle of it all is rookie outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu, who has added to that depth and made quite the impact now halfway through his first season in the NFL.
The Chargers second-round pick recorded his first career multi-sack game last Monday night, his first time notching a sack since Week 3 — something the rookie was well-aware of and hopes could get him back rolling once again.
"It felt good," Tuipulotu said Wednesday about his game in Week 9. "I think I was going through a slump for a couple of weeks so good to bounce back with a two sack game and hopefully stay consistent throughout the season."
Tuipulotu's numbers stack up there with the top defensive rookies through the first nine weeks. In addition to his 4.0 sacks, the second-round pick also has seven tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits.
Tuipulotu has the second-most total pressures (29), second-most run stops (14) and best run defense grade (84.3) among all rookie edge rushers who have played at least 20 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
But the word 'consistency' is something the rookie harped on, as he holds himself to a high standard even as a first-year player.
"I think I'm kind of behind of what I wanted to do," Tuipulotu said about his rookie season. "I don't really have any personal goals, my biggest thing is just being consistent.
"I think I kind of fell off a little bit and then luckily, I bounced back this past week," Tuipulotu added. "Like I said, I really just want to be consistent and contribute every week. That's my biggest thing."
That mindset is something Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley says makes Tuipulotu special as just a rookie.
"He's got great respect for the game for a young player," Staley said about Tuilpulotu. "With young players, you're worried about them being a pro. You hear that [a lot] — learning how to be a pro — well, he's pretty advanced for his age. He's not there yet, but he's pretty advanced for his age. And he's never satisfied."
"That's what the special players do, they always know they can be better. He's been playing well but he believes he can play better," Staley later added. "And I believe he can play better. That's where we can go with him. Like, 'Hey, you can do this thing at a high level. So the demand that we're going to put on you is going to be high because you've proven you can do it.' He has the appetite for the work where there's nothing that's going to be too big or too small for him."
On the field, Tuipulotu has made his stamp on games by being aggressive and getting after it in the run and the pass.
But off of it?
"When I'm on the field I'm a whole different person," Tuipulotu said. "I think I kind of turn the switch on but outside of it I'm kind of like this."
The rookie has a quiet, calm demeanor, even explaining Wednesday how it took him time to come out of his shell and talk to fellow teammates like Bosa, Mack and even quarterback Justin Herbert, simply out of respect. But over time the relationships have grown, including during the team dinners Mack hosts every week.
Staley said Tuipulotu has been the same player that he was during the draft process, and his respect for the game has led him to this point through college and into the pros.
"The switch is always on with Tuli. That's his secret," Staley said. "His switch is never off. That's why you're seeing him play like he can. But he did the same thing in college. He led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, played everywhere just like he's playing for us. The respect he has for the game is really rare.
"The reason why he talks about Justin and Khalil [like that] is because he has respect for the game and the greats in the game and his teammates and making sure he's doing his part and that he's not above the team," Staley added.
Check out the best shots from the Chargers Week 9 primetime victory over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football
The Chargers 2023 second-round pick walked into one of the best situations a young outside linebacker could have.
Under the leadership of Bosa and Mack, Tuipulotu has been able to watch some of the game's best up close, all while having an opportunity to grow along with them as they continue to gain knowledge about each other with each snap played.
Tuipulotu has learned a lot firsthand about what it takes to play a long time in the NFL.
"I think I've adapted very well. I think as the season is going on, I think we're getting more and more comfortable with each other," Tuipulotu said. "I think I'm starting to understand what types of players they are on the field like what kind of things they want and stuff like that. I think we'll just keep building and getting better."
Tuipulotu later added: "I say the same thing all the time but Joey just a big routine, keeping the same routine, being consistent with that routine. With K-Mack, it's just being gritty, just working hard no matter what the circumstance is. He's the definition of hard work. Like today in the weight room, he's working hard. That is what motivates me because he's been doing it for a long time."
It's a continuous work in progress, which is why having the opportunity to learn from his mistakes alongside some of the best is big for a player early in his career — and big for the team as they move into the second half of the year.
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