Why Uchenna Nwosu is the Chargers breakout candidate
Every year it seems that a new face always seems to take the next step forward in contribution and productivity in the team’s success. With a fraction of the team changing every year it always seems to leave room and opportunity for someone new. Last year I went with defensive tackle Justin Jones as my pick for breakout player of the year and I’m keeping him as my honorable mention this season. I am a strong believer that for most positions the third year in the NFL always seems to be the blossom year. While Jones could still fall under that category I want to go with a new face this year so I’m going with USC alum Uchenna Nwosu.
While Nwosu had a very promising rookie campaign, he didn’t see as much playing time in year two as many would have liked. Last year he only played a total of 362 snaps, which is equal to about 22 snaps per game. 145 of those snaps were in run defense and 192 were in pass rush. At this point in his career Nwosu has 5.5 sacks in the regular season and just 2 this past season. Of course we all remember his game sealing strip sack of Lamar Jackson in the playoffs during his rookie year. This is a particular player that many people including myself had pegged as someone who would be groomed as Gus Bradley’s ever famed “Leo” position. A few months ago Bradley spoke about how the team would have some defensive changes. Mainly the team was sticking in primary nickel and dime defense. Nwosu being a strong side linebacker/ defensive end hybrid he wasn’t able to be utilized as much when the team ops to have extra defensive backs on the field instead. This year I would expect the team and Bradley to try and run more base 4-3 defense which will likely allow Nwosu to see more playing time. In fact the ever famed “Leo” is more utilizable out of different 4-3 sets. Probably more effective as well as you can move him around and let him put his hand in the dirt on some plays a true linebacker on others. This afford the team so much more blitzing from both positions which I look forward to seeing Nwosu with a heavier workload in this type of scenario.
With the addition of Kenneth Murray who is a true linebacker rather than many of the converted safeties already on the roster and with defensive tackle Linval Joseph I believe that Bradley thinks that he can be more effective in a 4-3. This is what helped make the legion of Boom in Seattle so successful, the pure effectiveness of the front seven. So I would assume this is the type of approach he will take by constantly being in 4-3 over, 4-3 under, or even the “bear front” which is a formation that is heavy in the box while still being a nickel package. All of these signs bode well for someone like Uchenna Nwosu who i assume is gonna have a very productive season coming up. Bradley did say he thought Justin Jones was going to benefit most from these changes. The best thing for the team will be if they both can take the next step.