Joey Bosa’s dominance underscores mistake Chargers made in contract dispute

The San Diego rookie has been dominant, but his late start to the season after the sides struggled to agree on a contract could have doomed the season.

| 2 months ago
(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Joey Bosa’s dominance underscores mistake Chargers made in contract dispute


Joey Bosa now has 20 total pressures across the three games he has seen snaps in for the Chargers since finally being unleashed. In the first of those three games he only played in 27 snaps, and if you look at his pass-rushing production on a per-snap basis, he actually has the highest pass-rushing productivity score in the NFL among edge defenders.

That’s right, on a per-pass-rush basis, Joey Bosa has been more productive than Von Miller.

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While Miller has been generating a pressure once every 5.2 pass rushing snaps, Bosa has done it once every 4.7. His run-stop percentage of 9.7 is also good enough to rank in the top 10 at his position (and higher than Miller, by the way).

The Chargers are 3-4 on the season, and have lost their four games by an average of 3.5 points. Bosa is already second on the team in terms of total pressures to Melvin Ingram, who has played three times as many snaps over the year, and it’s interesting to think what effect Bosa could have had upon those games. (In the four games Bosa missed, the Chargers went 1-3.)

In the four losses, the Chargers defense surrendered an average of 32 points, and a player like Bosa could well have swung one or more of those games in San Diego’s favor. They have in effect likely cost themselves wins this season by digging in on the protracted contract standoff, which could be key come the end of the season.

For Bosa, however, this is exactly the kind of player we expected to see given the last two seasons of PFF College grading. Bosa was the best-graded edge defender in the nation in each of the past two seasons, and was No. 1 on the PFF big board all of the way through the draft process.

There was no more productive college player than Bosa, and yet there were questions about how dominant a force he would be in the NFL. The answer so far appears to be just about as dominant. The Chargers have moved him between outside linebacker and defensive end depending on the personnel grouping they have been running (he typically plays outside in base, and kicks inside in sub-packages), and have moved him across both sides of the line. He has been a versatile and productive weapon for them to deploy.

With seven weeks of the season gone, Bosa has played in just three games, and one of them sparingly, but if he continues at the same kind of rate, it will be very difficult to keep his name out of Rookie of the Year conversations at season’s end. If he plays in all of the remaining games he will have played in 12 games, or three-quarters of the season. At the moment he isn’t even comparable with other rookie edge defenders, such is the gulf in production between him and the rest of the league.

He leads all rookies with those 20 total pressures — the next-closest figure is Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue with 17, and Ngakoue has taken two-and-a-half times as many snaps on the field to get there (310 to 130).

The top performing rookies outside of Bosa so far this season are almost all offensive players, and it will be difficult for Bosa to win a PR battle against quarterbacks and running backs, but on the defensive side of the ball he would have as strong a case as anybody if things continued on their current course.

On current pace Bosa would end the season with 80 total pressures, which is a figure that only six players managed to top a season ago — on a full 16-game season. And Bosa was working from half a game’s snaps on one of his three outings.

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Bosa’s pace may slow as the season wears on, but he has faced some tough players in his short career so far. In his debut he did much of his damage against Oakland’s Donald Penn, a good if not great left tackle. Against Atlanta this week he beat both left tackle Jake Matthews and right tackle Ryan Schraeder repeatedly — each is a quality starter. This isn’t a player whose numbers can be explained by a quirk of scheduling and matchups.

Joey Bosa is very much for real, and it’s just a shame for the Chargers they didn’t get him on the field sooner, because it has likely cost them wins.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Sam

    This isn’t even mentioning what it did to their chances of keeping him when his rookie contract is up. Good grief San Diego.

    Also are we sure Matthews is a quality starter?

    • Nelson Cobb

      There’s 4 years to fix that, and money has a way of fixing a lot of issues too.

  • brian

    That’s just a handful of games thou, I’m not impressed at all.

    • Doug

      “He leads all rookies with those 20 total pressures — the next-closest figure is Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue with 17, and Ngakoue has taken two-and-a-half times as many snaps on the field to get there (310 to 130).”

      I don’t think you understand the concept of rookie production.

    • Nelson Cobb

      Not impressed at all?? Clearly, not much impresses you then. You must be a very pleasant person to be around. Joey Bosa missed all of training camp, missed the 1st 4 games, and over his 1st 3 games of his career has notched 4 sacks, 20 pressures and has likely already taken the lead for DROY, and you’re not impressed?? Haha, ok Bosa hater.

    • bellini

      I don’t think you understand math…
      Tough way to go through life

    • cmbc587

      You are not even impressed at all? Regardless of whether or not it’s a small sample size of games, the kid is having a serious impact on the games he’s playing in. If he continues on the same pace for 3 more games would you be impressed then?

    • Thaiwatchdog

      Your troll ish comment impress everyone here even less

    • LazyTheKid

      I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not…

  • jamfed

    I’ve watched every Chargers game this season, and I find myself screaming BOSA TIME in pass rushing situations. I point out Joey Bosa on my TV screen to my 5 year old son to identity, and tell him to watch Joey Bosa. And Bosa produces…
    But Joey is not in there every snap. He’s being eased into each game, so he does stay fresh and you can tell he’s learning. Plus, he plays all over the line, so you don’t know where he’s going to line up, which is great.
    Please note, Bosa drew to false start penalties against the Falcons, that lead to a Matt Ryan interception. Even before the snap, he’s altering the game.
    Joey Bosa is a very big bright spot on that San Diego defense, and he’s truely fun to watch. I will be buying a Bosa color rush jersey!

    • Ricky James

      They sold out already

  • ThunderBuddy

    It’s the AGENTS v OWNERSHIP the players are just the bait dangling on the string. The NFL is a huge $$$ business and like with any union representation it’s about what precedent can we set by asking for more. I don’t blame either side really, this type of thing happens in negotiations every day. I wish they each could’ve reached an agreement sooner but, hey, that’s business

  • TJ Smith

    It is crazy but Joey Bosa is already one of the best defensive players in the league. The first game he played I thought Chargers would have 2 more wins if they signed him earlier. Despite all the problems and injuries on the chargers. San Diego might make the playoffs because of that kid. Long term watch out for that San Diego defense. Did anyone have a better draft than the Chargers?

    • Ken

      Yeah they did really well in the draft this year. Hunter Henry looks legit as well.

      Not sure how often it happens where you have your 4th, 5th and 6th round draft pick all contributing as rookies. Maybe if you’re the Browns, but not quite the same thing if you’re not competing.

  • Christopher Tovar

    I told everybody this guy was going to be a bust, he looks like a future bust in Canton though, as Titans fan and having the first pick and trading out to get Conklin highest rated RT I am fine with this ( because all the picks we got from the Rams but Bosa looks like a faster Watt ( scary).

  • OP Bolt

    Funny how as soon as the junior “trying to make my bones” agent was pushed aside by Bosa, the new senior agent got a deal done in a couple of days. In the end,it takes two to make a deal. While the Spanos Krewe rarely deserves empathy, I’m pretty sure that the intransigence by the agent was the most culpable factor in this fiasco.

    The good news is that Bosa’s performance, along with a couple of other young players, has stopped the losing skid. For better or worse he has made a major contribution in saving McCoy’s job, at least till the end of the season.

  • Andrew Hernandez

    WAIT HOLD ON–
    I agree I would’ve liked to see both sides get a deal done a lot quicker but….
    Reaching a contract agreement any sooner wouldn’t have got him on the field for week 1. He was sidelined with an hamstring injury until his debut week 5 (and even then he only saw 39% of total defensive snaps vs 74% in w6)

    This article is either:
    A) ignoring or unaware of the injury
    B) claiming that Bosa wouldn’t of gotten hurt if he signed earlier
    C) trying to generate clicks from Chargers fans

    The entire premise that the Chargers nearly doomed themselves by not getting Bosa on the field earlier is false because these two events are unrelated. Nothing can prove that had both sides agreed earlier, Bosa wouldn’t of gotten hurt.

    I would’ve loved to see #99 suited up Weeks 1-4. I think he could’ve swung that 3.5 pt differential in the Chargers favor. But things happen that no one can control. Not Tom Telesco, Not Mike McCoy, Not Joey Bosa. Not even his (2) agents.

    To blame the Chargers for causing Bosa’s hamstring injury is too far fetched for me. Go play with your butterfly effect theory somewhere else.

    • sjt2115

      The implied narrative seems to be that he got hurt because he wasn’t in training camp and so therefore wasn’t in “football shape”. I don’t really think that can be proven. Maybe he shows up on day 1 and he’s good to go, or maybe he twists his knee at practice and doesn’t play in any of the games so far.

      The best I think that could be said is that by showing up late he wasn’t up to speed on the playbook and such and so therefore would have been held out for 1 or 2 games anyway. So the standoff probably cost them at least 1 possible win. The other 2 were just bad luck.