Lindsey ThiryESPN5 minute read
COAST MESA, Calif. – A smile appeared on Joey Bosa’s face.
What made the Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker attend organized team volunteer activities?
“I mean, the coaches tell me,” Bosa said with a smile. “So yeah, no problem.”
As he prepares for his eighth NFL season, Bosa would be in Florida, training with his younger brother, the San Francisco 49er and defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.
“For Joey to be here, I think it shows all these young players what it takes to be successful,” said coach Brandon Staley, “that you have to be here with your team to get better.”
Consider it a bonus that Bosa’s assist will allow additional time to further develop with fellow veteran Khalil Mack.
“It’s always nice when you have Joey B around,” Mack said. “A lot of knowledge. A good friend, a good guy to have in the locker room and in the meeting room.”
Bosa and Mack, along with safety Derwin James Jr., lead a returning group with eight of 11 starters for a 10-7 team that made its first playoff appearance in four years. The Chargers also await the return of cornerback JC Jackson, who continues to recover from season-ending knee surgery, and welcome veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks, who signed a two-year, $13.25 million deal in free agency. .
But the focus remains on Bosa and Mack. Two premium pass-rushers who have another rare chance to line up together, and who will be depended on to act if the Chargers are to improve on a 2022 streak that ended in a brutal 31-30 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a wild-card playoff. game.
“That’s one of the things we talked about when we got on the plane,” Mack said of last season’s finale in Jacksonville. “We said, ‘Man, just give me one more.’ That’s what we’re waiting for.”
Expectations for the Bosa-Mack duo were through the roof in 2022 after the Chargers acquired Mack in a successful trade with the Chicago Bears. However, their partnership never outgrew its infancy after Bosa suffered a groin injury in a Week 3 loss to the Jaguars and spent 12 weeks on injured reserve.
This season, the pair have another chance to prove that those expectations weren’t out of reach and that, despite being a year older, they can establish themselves among the NFL’s top pass-rusher duos.
“It’s rare that you can find two players of that caliber that you can put together,” Staley said. “Our goal is for those two to play together.”
Despite a late-season surge, the Chargers’ defense in 2022 ranked 21st in the NFL, allowing an average of 22.6 points. In six games together, including a playoff matchup, Bosa and Mack combined for 7.5 sacks.
“Not even close,” Mack said of whether he and Bosa showed their potential in 2022. “I just can’t wait to date this guy. Don’t talk too much, get to work.”
Bosa, who turns 28 in July, insisted this offseason felt different from previous ones after he underwent surgery during the season to repair his groin, a source of chronic pain.
“I’ve been talking a lot last year about the best I’ve ever felt,” Bosa said. “It was true at the time, but I think I got really used to the chronic pain I was in, so it was hard to judge where I really was. Going back to work this year, it’s been fun spending some time running and stuff. We’re going back to the old me or whatever you want to say.”
In 2021, Bosa recorded 10.5 sacks, forced seven fumbles, and had 20 quarterback hits.
Now, a year after his move to Los Angeles, Mack, 32, has become more comfortable in his surroundings, even sitting courtside to watch LeBron James and the Lakers’ playoff run. The 10th-year pro has established a routine that includes Pilates and stops at his favorite food spots.
“It feels great not to have to figure all that out,” Mack said. “It matters… Getting into that routine of knowing what to do and where I’m going to be and what I’m going to do during the week is very necessary.”
Mack, like Bosa, also said he physically feels “pretty good,” a difference from what he felt a year ago as he worked his way back from off-season foot surgery.
“Being able to get into it and get into a faster regimen and running and doing all the things that I would normally do during the offseason feels great,” Mack said.
And, in Bosa’s style of brutal honesty, he admitted something else. It was not only at the behest of the coaches that he attended voluntary training. He also likes to be with Mack.
“Khalil and I, off the pitch, I think we’ve grown closer in the short time we’ve been together. I’m excited to keep it up,” Bosa said. “I would say that is definitely part of the reason I left early. I feel obligated to do my thing when I have him watching me, I have him counting on me. It’s nice to have that.”