Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa is accustomed to corralling opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers.
Lately, Bosa also has been chasing the pulse of his defensive unit — or at least working to find what’s ailing it.
The Chargers enter their Sunday visit to the Chicago Bears struggling on defense, namely in allowing big plays. Although Los Angeles sits in sound positioning in several league defensive rankings — including passing yards allowed (fifth), points allowed (10th) and total yards allowed (11th) — the team still has proven susceptible to breakdowns in key moments.
“There’s hits and misses,” Bosa said. “I think the pieces are there. We just have to tackle a little better, and I think it’s a totally different ballgame.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley maintain that improved gang tackling, getting as many defenders to the ball as soon as possible, will boost Los Angeles (2-5) and help provide a difference down the stretch.
Los Angeles’ five losses have come by a combined 27 points. Free safety Rayshawn Jenkins, whom Lynn called the “eraser tackler” this week, plays a prominent role as the last line of defense.
“He’s missed a couple (tackles), and I think the ones that he’s missed have been big, so it seems like he’s missed a decent amount of tackles,” Lynn said. “But he really hasn’t. ... If he misses, a lot of times it’s going to be a big play. That’s why you’ve got to have a guy back there that can tackle and that’s aggressive, like Rayshawn.
“Overall, Rayshawn is one of my better tacklers in the secondary. We have had some tackling issues, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think Rayshawn is one of them.”
Injuries have wrecked the Chargers up front, and top receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) was added to the training room log this week. He was unable to practice Thursday and Friday and his availability at Chicago is in serious doubt.
Chicago (3-3) has lost two straight as it searches for an offensive identity. The Bears are averaging 263.7 yards per game, ranked 30th in the NFL, while their average of 70.0 rushing yards per game ranks 28th, one spot and 4.3 yards per game fewer than the Chargers.
Coming off their bye week, the Bears had a franchise-low seven carries during their 36-25 home loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 7. Although the team struggled to establish a rhythm in any facet of its attack with quarterback Mitch Trubisky returning from a shoulder injury sustained in Week 4, Bears coach Matt Nagy has aimed to rejuvenate the ground game going forward.
“I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot. I realize that,” Nagy said. “Seven rushes and the minimum amount of times, I totally understand that. You need to do it. I never go into a game saying I want to throw the ball 54 times (as Trubisky did against the Saints).
“I would love to go into a game and say I want to run the ball 54 times. But that hasn’t happened.”
Bears defensive back Sherrick McManis, who sustained a concussion against the Saints, didn’t practice Wednesday, but all others on the active roster are healthy.
Lynn said Wednesday that left tackle Russell Okung would make his season debut in Chicago after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. However, Lynn said Trent Scott would take a majority of snaps as Okung works himself back into shape.
Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram returned to a limited practice Wednesday after missing the last three games with a hamstring issue. He’s likely to play for the first time since Week 4.
Chicago leads the all-time series 7-5, including victories in the past two meetings between the teams, in 2011 and 2015.
—Field Level Media