Joey Bosa made his NFL debut almost exactly one year ago in dynamic fashion, getting two sacks for the Chargers against the Raiders.
Bosa still remembers the excitement of his first appearance in Oakland, which is where the Chargers (1-4) are headed again Sunday with a chance to get their season back on track.
“It feels like it was yesterday, really,” Bosa said Thursday. “Time flies. I was just talking to (defensive tackle Brandon) Mebane about maybe when he’d want to retire in the hot tubs, and he was like, ‘Joey, you’ll be looking up at Year 8 like, man, where’s the time gone?’ It’s definitely flying by.”
Although the start of his rookie season was delayed by injury and a holdout, Bosa has been one of the league’s most dangerous pass-rushers from that first game. While Bosa and the Chargers are both hoping for even better results this year, his two-sack performance against the Giants last week emphasized his steady growth into a monster on the Los Angeles line.
While plenty has gone wrong for the Chargers in their first few games after relocation, their vaunted pass-rushing duo just keeps getting better.
Bosa is eighth in the NFL with 4 1/2 sacks for Los Angeles. He is excelling alongside Melvin Ingram, who has 7 1/2 sacks as a bookend edge rusher. They dominated the win over the Giants, recording two sacks apiece and harassing Eli Manning all day.
The Chargers beat New York 27-22 with timely defense, forcing two turnovers in the final minutes after limiting Manning to 225 yards passing and sacking him five times.
“I think we needed to pull out a close win like that to get the confidence going through the locker room,” Bosa said. “It’s only up from where we were. … We’ve been stuck in these close games for a year and a half now and we’ve come out on the losing side of them. It’s a rough feeling, but to be able to pull out a close one was a great confidence boost.”
To have the same effect on Derek Carr or E.J. Manuel in Oakland, Bosa and Ingram will have to get creative — and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has enjoyed implementing both rushers in unusual ways.
Bradley has begun lining up Bosa and Ingram on the same side of the offensive line on occasion, and the results have been destructive. They did it in the third quarter last week against the Giants, and Ingram roared through the hole created by Bosa for a 13-yard sack.
The Chargers make the move to create mismatches, but they’re also doing it “just for an offensive lineman’s prep time, too,” Bradley said.
“It’s kind of like running the Wildcat, right?” Bradley added. “You run it three times in three games, it takes time to prepare for. So that’s a little bit of the philosophy, as well as the players can excel. You try to utilize their skill set.”
Bosa had two sacks and a forced fumble in the first quarter against New York. He has solid numbers this season, even with fewer highlight-reel plays than he compiled in his rookie year while becoming the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.
That’s partly due to a huge season from Ingram, who has been outstanding. Offenses frequently must decide to focus on one edge rusher, and the other has more freedom to disrupt.
“We have a lot of flexibility with those guys,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We can put them on opposite sides, same side, put them inside, outside.”