Over the coming weeks, I will be performing an analysis of each position group on the Chargers roster. The goal is to break down each group and see how each player faired in 2019. This will help to determine which players should be resigned, which positions need to be upgraded via free agency, or the draft, and potential contract extensions for the many players entering their prime. I am pushing for a goal date of March 6th, prior to the start of free agency. Free agency begins March 11th for negotiating, and players may enter into contracts on March 13th, the start of the new league year. This will provide me a week to look at potential free agents the Chargers should resign, and targets to upgrade their own team.
Entering his 14th year, Brandon Mebane is the oldest player on the team, and a leader in the locker room. He has played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2007 to 2015, and spent the last 4 years with the Chargers. His first year for the Chargers, he had a great year, but he has been steadily declining ever since. Mebane is a true 1-tech defensive tackle, doing all the dirty work in the trenches. He is limited at this point in his career as a player to be used solely to defend against the run.
Mebane is on his way out it seems as the team could save 6 million against the cap for a rotational player. There is some depth at the defensive tackle position, though it lacks a true star at both spots. There isn’t a great 1-tech tackle on the team, and it’s not an easy position to replace. Mebane has been instrumental at taking on double teams and forcing the play to different places, which goes unnoticed. Still, I am not sure he is irreplaceable with Square, Jones, Williams, and Broughton being younger players with more upside.
Jones was drafted in the 3rd round in 2017, and he is the player I believe to replace Brandon Mebane. He is strong enough to take over the position and is growing to be one-gap control type of tackle. He has great hands at the line of scrimmage, using rips and swims to get off blocks, just is a bit slow at it. He has a high motor and doesn’t take off plays too often. He isn’t much of a pass rusher and plays better at redirecting guards in the run game. He looks like he is still growing in his frame. Overall, he is a very similar player to a younger Mebane. He has the skills to be a 1-tech, but is still learning the strategy side to the position. Likely the teams starter next year.
As the teams 1st-round draft pick last season, Tillery was seen as the teams 3-tech defensive tackle. While Tillery didn’t have the best year last year, you have to keep in mind the learning curve at his position is different then other positions. At 6’6 295 pounds, he is very lanky at the position which isn’t helping matters. He is very athletic for his size, but would benefit from adding weight to his frame. He can be groomed as a pass rusher from his position, though we may have to wait a bit longer for him to get there.
Tillery is a liability in the run game. He tends to play high, and at 6’6, that’s something that works against him. He will get driven out of the play. He needs to tack on weight and get stronger as a whole to reach his true potential. Having shoulder surgery limited his preseason reps a bit, and going into a full training camp fully healthy should be huge for his growth. He is being groomed as a 3-tech defensive tackle, but he really looks like a 5-tech defensive end in a 3-4 type defense. He should be the teams other starter playing next to Jones next season. I’m looking forward to seeing him as the teams most improved player in 2020.
Damion Square is one of the longest tenured Chargers on the teams defense. He has been on the roster since 2014 and has carved out a nice career as an un-drafted player. At age 31, he is getting older but still plays as a nice rotational player. He doesn’t provide much pass rush as he only as 5.5 career sacks to his name. As a veteran, he provides some juice in the run game. He is another 3-tech player who has also played 1-tech as a relief for Mebane. If brought back in free agency, he may be in a camp battle with Sylvester Williams and Cortez Broughton for a position on the roster next year.
Sylvester Williams/Cortez Broughton
Sylvester Williams is a player who never lived up to his 1st-round draft pedigree. He is a true 1-tech defensive tackle and provides the size and strength to hold down the position. He had underwhelmed much of his career, which is why the Chargers were able to get him so cheap. He has moved around a bit the last few years, and may stick around with his ability to take on double teams. He is not on contract for 2020. Cortez Broughton is a player drafted late last year. We have yet to see much outside of preseason, so scouting on him is very much in-complete.
There is at least a handful of defensive tackles on the roster who are unlikely to be back in a powder blue jersey next year. The Chargers have some young options to choose from considering they have been heavy on defensive tackles in the draft and may look to keep a veteran or two. They could also opt to dry and bring in another veteran from free agency. I think it is unlikely that Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Sylvester Williams are all on the roster next year. If I had to guess, the Chargers move on from Mebane and Williams, and keep Damion Square due to the familiarity Gus Bradley has with the tackle. I believe they want to develop their tackles, so I see Jones and Tillery as next years starters.