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COSTA MESA, California – Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu is in a fierce battle on the training ground. He arrives early, stays late and works as hard and smart as he can. The player he fights with, Kyler Fackrell, does the same.
Who wins the starting spot will be decided either before September 12, when the Chargers take on the road against the Washington Football Team (13:00 ET, CBS). Or before.
It is not a position neither Nwosu nor Fackrell finds comfortable. Both want to see significant playing time, but who the hell starts?
Nwosu was another round draft pick from USC in 2019. He had 4.5 sacks and 33 tackles in a part-time role last season. Fackrell is in his sixth season in the NFL, after playing for the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. He was drafted by the Packers in the third round of 2016 out of Utah State. He is taller (6 feet-5 to 6-2) and older (29 to 24) and just as good as Nwosu, who expected to step in for the now retired Melvin Ingram (who left the Pittsburgh Steelers after nine seasons).
It’s a hell of a fight.
“Kyler and Uchenna are doing a really good job for us,” said Chargers coach Brandon Staley. “Both are becoming really big assets for us … the specific roles they play are still not determined.
“The good thing is that they are not different players and both can perform jobs that both complement Joey Bosa.”
Ah, Bosa. The key to defense.
“To see how he has had such great success, most guys are not given the opportunity to learn from such a Pro Bowler,” Nwosu said. “So I could learn from him for four years and grow and be ready for this opportunity.”
Bosa said: “Kyler and Uchenna have both done a great job.”
It does not help on the underlying question of who starts?
“That’s my goal,” said Fackrell, who has 20.5 career sacks, including 10.5 in 2018 with the Packers. “I know Uchenna and Joey are great players. It’s hard to go 100% every moment, but we want a decent rotation. I will try to contribute as best I can.”
The beauty of this defense is that Staley can put different guys in different positions for no reason, as we can tell (they know the secrets after all), but it’s all designed to confuse the opposition. Having smart players who know how to play definitely helps.
Nwosu quickly caught on and saw a lot of Los Angeles Rams defensive tape (Staley was the Rams’ defensive coordinator before joining the Chargers – leading them to No. 1 overall placement last year), specifically by the Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.
“The versatility of this defense. To always be in the right situation at the right time,” Nwosu said. “He has a lot of different ways to get in and out of different defenses, to secure the right call and play our best. I’m really excited about that.”
When asked about Fackrell, his competition: “He’s been in the league for six years, so he’s played a lot of ball. He has a lot of wisdom and intelligence behind him … I just can not wait to get on the field field with him and together, see what we can do. “
Yes. But who starts?