Joey Bosa earned an excellent grade in his NFL debut
We’ve had to wait a heck of a long time to see him play again, but San Diego Chargers rookie defensive lineman (and No. 3 overall draft pick) Joey Bosa reminded us with his play in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders that he is still really freaking good.
Between a protracted contract negotiation with the Chargers and then an injury, San Diego’s top pick didn’t step foot on an NFL field until Week 5 of his rookie season, and against Oakland he played 27 snaps against one of the league’s best offensive lines (albeit one down multiple right tackles).
Over those 27 snaps we got to see the Bosa we graded as the top player in college football the last two years – a destructive wrecking ball who could move all over the line and dominate in all facets of the game. He had significantly more impact in 27 snaps than Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram had combined over 117.
Bosa rushed the passer 20 times and notched two sacks, a hit and four hurries. That’s seven total pressures, or hurrying the QB on more than a third of his pass-rushing snaps. He also made three tackles, and every time he got hold of somebody it was a defensive stop on the play.
For those wondering how Bosa would fit in the San Diego 3-4 defense having been pretty much strictly a 4-3 defensive end at Ohio State, the answer – at least against Oakland – was that the Chargers were going to use him everywhere.
He moved between defensive end and outside linebacker, and flipped between the left and right sides at both positions. Effectively on base downs Bosa was lined up at outside linebacker before kicking down to the line when the Chargers went into sub-packages.
That is the deployment that made the most logical sense for him within this defense when he was drafted by a team running a 3-4, but now we have confirmation that it’s how they are playing him, at least in this first game.
The encouraging aspect of his play is not just that he made an impact consistently across his snaps, but that the team was comfortable enough given how little involvement he has had with them to use him in such a variety of ways. It would have been understandable, and perhaps even expected, for them to ease him into the team beginning with a specific position and role in the defense on a situational basis. I would not have been surprised to see Bosa come out of this game with those 27 snaps all being on one side of the line, and most from the same position.
It speaks not only to his ability as a player on the field, but his ability to learn and assimilate to the defensive scheme that he is already being used in this way.
As mentioned before, the Raiders have been having nightmares at the right tackle position, and they continued in this game. Heading into the week they had used five different right tackles in four games, and against San Diego Austin Howard lasted just six snaps before going down, leaving Vadal Alexander to play the remaining 66. There would have been something of an asterisk attached to Bosa’s production had it been simply a case of beating up on a third-string right tackle, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Three of his pressures came against Raiders left tackle Donald Penn, who is the 11th-ranked tackle in the league with an 82.3 PFF grade even after this game took him down a peg or two. Those three pressures represent almost a third of the total pressures (10) Penn has surrendered on the season, and they came on just 12 snaps of Bosa lining up on that side of the line, nine of which were passing plays. Bosa was able to generate a pressure on a third of his pass rushes going up against one of the league’s better left tackles.
That consistency was one of his calling cards over the last two seasons of college. He was the highest-graded edge defender in the nation in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons at PFF, and over that time was consistently dominant, regardless of who he faced. In a two-year span he was only shut out in terms of generating pressure on one occasion – with every other game featuring multiple pressures – and even in that game he was a force against the run.
27 snaps is a little soon to be saying anything with any real certainty, but Joey Bosa was the No. 1 player on PFF’s Big Board throughout the draft process, and so far, it looks like he will be every bit as dominant in the NFL as he was in college — meaning he will be well worth the wait for the San Diego Chargers.