Houston Texans  


Joey Bosa ticketed to play J.J. Watt role for San Diego Chargers


The San Diego Chargers haven't made the comparison because they know it's largely unfair and way too early to even think about such possibilities. Their first-round pick, defensive end Joey Bosa, already has enough on his plate as he adjusts to his new life in the NFL. But the minute the Bolts made him the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, you could envision imaginations running wild all across Southern California.

In a league where Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has become arguably the best player, San Diego might have found a 20-year-old who could blossom into its own version of a chaos-creating difference maker.

The more the Chargers talk about Bosa, the more it sounds like this wasn't simply a selection that filled a major need. As much as they had to address a defense that struggled to stop the run last season -- when the Chargers ranked 27th in rushing D -- they also desperately wanted a potential superstar. Head coach Mike McCoy actually talked openly about the Bolts' desire to find a player who could represent the culture they needed to create after winning just four games in 2015. The organization wanted passion, relentlessness and tenacity, which is exactly how Bosa made his name as an All-American at Ohio State.

San Diego certainly could've gone in other directions with that pick, as defensive back Jalen Ramsey and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley would have been logical choices. By taking Bosa, the Chargers landed a player with the potential to be what Watt has become in Houston: a one-man wrecking crew who sets the tone for an entire organization.

"It didn't take long to figure out the guy we wanted to get," McCoy said. "Any time you turned on Ohio State football -- it didn't matter if you were watching one of their players on defense or an opponent on the offensive side of the football -- he was on tape often. [He was] wreaking havoc, making plays, getting after the quarterback, putting pressure on the quarterback, running to the football and playing the way we want to play football here."

The Chargers say they liked Bosa as the best player on their draft board as early as last September. By that point, he'd become one of the most dominant players in college football, a force who would rack up 26 sacks and 50.5 tackles for loss in three seasons. Bosa's tenacity also had to appeal to a team that needed substantial help in the marketing department. Bosa attacks the game in a way that excites coaches, teammates and the very people tasked with the job of selling season tickets.

That's the obvious similarity he shares with Watt: There's an innate rage to their games, an unwillingness to settle for anything less than excellence. Watt literally willed himself into becoming an All-Pro -- he delivered pizzas in college at one point before walking on at Wisconsin (after initially playing tight end at Central Michigan) -- and Bosa has a similar desire. The only significant difference is that Bosa grew up with a father who played in the NFL: John Bosa spent three seasons with the Miami Dolphins after being selected as the 16th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. In many ways, Joey was bred to be a pro football player from the moment he started to walk.

When meeting with local reporters at the Chargers' rookie minicamp, Bosa talked about the focus he's gained by having a father who knows the business of pro football.

"He understands it's a different time than when he played 30 years ago," said Joey, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in each of his final two seasons in Columbus. "He just makes sure he controls everything outside of football, so every day I can wake up and focus on being a better player. That's all I need to focus on, because my family does a great job of handling the outside noise."

The Chargers talk as if they'd like to use Bosa in ways similar to how the Texans utilize Watt. Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel loves to move Watt all over his defensive front in order to find a favorable matchup to exploit. Bosa will play the same position -- as a "5-technique" defensive end -- and he's versatile enough to line up anywhere Chargers DC John Pagano wants to use him. Both McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco even claim they aren't worried that the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Bosa doesn't carry the typical girth of players who play that position in a 3-4 defense. (Watt, for example, lists at 6-5 and 289 pounds.) Their belief is that Bosa is so technically proficient with his hands -- and so intense -- that weight won't matter as much early in his career. Bosa also doesn't turn 21 until July 11, so he has ample time to add more beef to his frame.

What the Chargers see more than anything is a disruptive presence who can pass rush inside and outside and plays the run as well as any other defensive end in this class. The draft experts might have liked Bosa as a better match for a 4-3 system, but the Chargers saw a player who, as McCoy said, "is all ball."

"He's a relentless player, from what I've watched on film," Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget said. "He has a motor. It's like he doesn't stop or get tired. That's the kind of player I want next to me. ... Plus, he's from Florida. He's right up the road from me [Bosa hails from Fort Lauderdale, Liuget is from Miami], so I expect him to be a badass."

That is the word that best describes Watt, and it is one that should fit Bosa, if all things go according to plan in San Diego. The Chargers realize they are at a critical juncture for their franchise, especially as they try to figure out where they'll be playing football in the coming years. Their hopes for a downtown stadium remain up in the air, while moving to Los Angeles is still a real possibility. They need players who can excite fans wherever they end up, especially as aging veterans like quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates get closer to retirement.

Bosa has that look to him, which will be a huge asset for the Chargers moving forward. The AFC West is home to many young stars, as well as the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The Chargers aren't going to become competitive again solely by hoping Rivers can keep working his magic on offense. They also desperately need their first-round pick to leave his own sizable impact on the NFL.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.



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