The NFL's best pass-rushing duo? Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa stake their claim
The young Chargers certainly don't lack for confidence
"We already are," Ingram said after a camp practice here last week.
"The best duo in the league, and now we have to live up to it," Ingram said, not flinching one bit.
"Definitely," Ingram replied.
That's a pretty bold statement to make considering Bosa is entering his second season in the league and Ingram has had just one season of double-digit sacks in his five in the league. They did combine for 20.5 sacks last season, with Bosa getting 10.5. The potential to be the best is certainly there.
"If you don't have that kind of confidence that you are the best, how can you be the best?" Ingram said.
So let's look around the league and see if there is some merit to what Ingram is saying. Based on 2016 sack totals, the best pass-rushing duo would be the Cardinals' Markus Golden and Chandler Jones, who combined for 23.5 sacks. Then there's the Texans' J.J. Watt, coming off back surgery but healthy now, to pair with either Jadeveon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus. Let's not forget the Broncos' Von Miller and whoever -- Shane Ray when he gets back -- and the Raiders' Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
The Giants have a nice duo in Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Maybe the Chiefs' Dee Ford with a healthy Justin Houston? The Seahawks have Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, and now even Frank Clark. The Vikings have a rising star in Danielle Hunter to pair with veteran Everson Griffen.
So let the debate rage on.
"You like his humility?" Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said when I told him what Ingram said. "They have a lot of work to do, but I have been impressed by them, the way they both work and get after it."
Bradley is in his first year with the Chargers after being the Jaguars head coach from 2013-2016. He is implementing a new system with a 4-3 front that would seem to cater to both Bosa and Ingram.Bradley does use a lot of multiple looks up front, and you can expect Bosa to move around a lot. He has been working inside in some situations this camp, but he will open as the starting end. In Bradley's scheme, he will get more wide rushes from the end spot than he did a year ago.
"It's going to put me on the edge more," Bosa said. "It's like what we did in our sub packages. It's not too different. Same techniques really."
Ingram is moving from outside linebacker to the "Leo" end spot in Bradley's defense. There isn't a lot of difference for him since he rushed a lot as an outside linebacker in the old 3-4 scheme, leading the team with 23 quarterback hits last season.
"Still doing the same thing," Ingram said. "I love this defense."
Ingram goes into 2017 with a big, new contract. After putting the franchise tag on him last March as an unrestricted free agent, the Chargers signed Ingram to a deal in June for four years and $64 million.
Interestingly, it was a contract dispute last year that forced Bosa to miss all of training camp and the preseason and the first four regular-season games. Yet he still managed to get the 10.5 sacks and become a pressure-making machine. His ability to jump in and rush the passer as well as he did, with little training, is a testament to his ability to use all the tricks in the bag.
He can use power. He can use speed. He is outstanding with his hands, and he is good at stunting to get free. He looked like a 10-year vet as a rookie and without training camp. That's scary for opposing quarterbacks.
"I am better now," Bosa said. "I made a point to get better and stronger throughout the year. You could see that last year. I can tell I am better because I am beating these NFL tackles, which I had a tough time doing in OTAs and stuff last year. I like to think I can affect the game from a speed, technical and power standpoint."
There have been some who have compared Bosa to Watt. But he is smaller at 272 pounds. I see him more as a guy in-between Watt and Miller. He can play with power like Watt, but he can also play with speed when needed, although not as fast as Miller does.
"Russell Okung (the Chargers new left tackle) told me that Bosa does things that you don't expect from a second-year player," Bradley said. "There is some wisdom behind what he does out there."
Bradley is truly excited in the different ways he will be able to use his two pass rushers.
"They both can play the left or right side," he said. "That will force the tackles to put in a lot of work on both of them since we can move them around."
Here's another good thing about having two: You can't double them both on every play. Teams will have to pick their poison on each snap.
"If I don't get the single, then somebody else is, which is good for our defense," Bosa said.
Neither of the two pass rushers has a 2017 sack total in mind. Or, if they do, they wouldn't go there.
"Wins, win a Super Bowl," Ingram said. "Those are the numbers that matter to me. The number is 16 as in 16 wins. If we do that, all the other stuff will fall into place."
If they do that, then the two rushers will likely have had a special season. If that happens, the debate about the best duo might be over.
For now, it's a fun one, even if Ingram said there really isn't a debate at all.
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