Chargers defense confident coming out of minicamp
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Melvin Ingram expects greatness from the Los Angeles Chargers defense.
Ingram is so confident of it, he wants a chance to moonlight on offense.
The Pro Bowl defensive end lobbied for a look at tight end after the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp concluded Thursday, offering another signal of how productive the Chargers expect to be in their second season under coordinator Gus Bradley.
“It’s just getting in where I fit in,” said Ingram, who matched his career high with 10½ sacks last season. “Fitting in and making some plays. The more you can do.”
The Chargers’ defense expects to be able to do plenty. They have more familiarity with Bradley’s 4-3 defense, a potential star in rookie safety Derwin James, and another option to rush the passer in emerging talent Isaac Rochell.
Joey Bosa is not as boisterous as his counterpart at defensive end, but shares Ingram’s outlook the Chargers will be formidable after allowing 17 points per game last season, which ranked third in the NFL.
“Hopefully a similar defense to what we had last year, with some of those sloppy mistakes and some of the run game stuff patched up and fixed,” Bosa said.
“We were moving in the last direction last year. Obviously, here and there we let up some tough games in the run game. But I think with the addition of the rookies we have and after years of playing together, can’t tell the future but it’s looking like we are going to have a great defense.”
James, who was selected by the Chargers at No. 17 overall in the first round, was the standout among the newcomers this week. He intercepted Phillip Rivers on Wednesday and looked solid in his most extensive work so far, aside from a mixup on an assignment when the offense put a receiver in motion on the final day.
Asked about where James looks best after playing both strong and free safety, coach Anthony Lynn joked, “In a Charger uniform.”
Said Ingram: “That’s why we went and got him in the first round. He’s been everything as expected.”
There were no such presumptions for Rochell, a seventh-round draft pick in 2017 coming out of Notre Dame. After losing weight and becoming more proficient in pass rush techniques, however, he could give the Chargers another threat coming off the edge to complement the standout duo of Bosa and Ingram.
“I’ve always liked Isaac,” Bosa said. “I think he’s a great guy and I think he has the potential to be a great rush end, but the jump he made was kind of unexpected. Seeing him out here with his hands and just the way he is moving is pretty unbelievable.”
“He’s definitely going to be another piece to our rotation,” Ingram said. “It’s not ‘if he can become,’ he’s definitely going to be a piece.”
Rochell’s development might allow Ingram a chance to catch passes instead of getting sacks.
Ingram, who memorably scored on a 68-yard touchdown run off a fake punt in college at South Carolina, spent time after practice working against cornerback Tony Brown.
Ingram even told Rivers that a connection between the quarterback and converted defender could be more productive than the record-setting rapport he shared with tight end Antonio Gates.
When it comes to evaluating the Chargers’ defense or his own skills, Ingram is not lacking for swagger.
“I’m always confident,” Ingram said. “Ain’t nothing changed.”
NOTES: Rivers and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane did not practice Thursday, as Lynn gave any player with at least 10 years experience the day off. Lynn extended the policy to excuse offensive tackle Russell Okung, who will be entering his ninth season this fall.