Chargers DT Linval Joseph still ‘a force of nature’ at 33


Linval Joseph is the man in the middle of the Chargers defensive line. Last Sunday against the Eagles, he was a wrecking ball, having nine tackles in a matchup that needed his production, especially against a good running offense.

This is nothing new for the big man. He has been a force to be dealt with his whole career, but more importantly, he has been a big part of the Chargers defense the last two seasons.

"He's a force of nature," Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said. "There aren't many men constructed like him. What makes him a true force of nature is his spirit. That competitive spirit that he has, he really loves the game. He loves to play. He loves to work."

His work ethic has been brought up in many conversations when speaking about Joseph, whether it is his teammates or coaches.

"He was on the elliptical grinding miles on Monday, sweating in a sweat jacket and making us all look just so mortal," Staley said. "You can't, as a coach, ever take it for granted."

He is a veteran. He won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants in 2012; he knows what it takes to get there.

Joseph's primary focus is his conditioning and takes it seriously. He stands at 6 foot 4 inches and weighs 323 pounds, but he is seen wearing a windbreaker and sweatpants during training camp and practices doesn't matter the weather.

"He means a lot to our defense — not just to our defense, but to our team," Chargers safety Derwin James explained. "I feel like he's one of the captains on the team, and he's a vocal leader. He leads by example. I just saw him the other day getting a workout in the early morning. He's one of the first guys in there working out already, on the elliptical getting ready. To have a guy like that, to have his mindset to just keep going at his age and years in the league, it's incredible."

This Sunday, he will face the team that released him last season in the Minnesota Vikings. They were dealing with cap issues, so they let the defensive tackle hit free agency.

The Chargers signed him to a two-year deal. He was needed because the team had just let defensive tackle Brandon Mebane walk in free agency. Mebane was a leader and worked his tail off.

"I'm blessed to even have the opportunity to play next to him," Chargers defensive tackle Justin Jones said. "I've been blessed to play with guys like that, starting with [former Chargers DT] Brandon Mebane and now Linval Joseph. It's great."

Jones was able to work and learn from Mebane for two seasons. He has now worked with Joseph for the second season, and he feels like his game is improving.

"L.J. came to me and said, 'Hey, do what you have to do. I'm here for you,'" Jones explained. "That's all I had to hear, and I'm out of there. I'm jumping snaps, I'm getting off the ball. L.J. is there to make the plays. That's such a comforting feeling for a guy like me who just likes to penetrate and cause disruption. I know somebody has my back, so I don't feel like a lone ranger out there trying to make plays by myself."

Players took to him quickly when he first signed, describing him as a "mobile home," "a truck," "walking refrigerator." Joey Bosa even called him "probably the strongest human I've come across."

He has been a brick wall for them since signing with the team.

"He's a mountain of a man, just a spectacle," Jones explained. "He's a great guy with a great personality, a funny guy. He's freakishly strong and freakishly fast, and he's just great to be around, great to play with."

Last season, he had 62 tackles and three tackles for loss. What jumped out about him in 2020 was the way he would keep up with a play. For instance, if a running back got a pitch to the right, Joseph would run after him even if the play had gone away from him.

Nine games into 2021, he has 41 tackles and two of them for loss. The numbers don't do him justice because right now the Chargers have the worst run defense in the NFL and without Joseph in the middle, it could be a lot worse.

When asking numerous coaches and players about the big defensive tackle, they are all amazed, but not surprised, that at 34-years old, he is playing at a high level.

"He gets better with age," Jones said.

The team feels like they are improving.

"We're starting to play together and understand what we're supposed to do," Joseph said. "We're starting to find our identity as a team."

The Chargers have had key pieces return to the lineup like Justin Jones and could even get linebacker Kenneth Murray.

They will need all the players they can get back because this weekend, not only do they face Joseph's former team but a dangerous running back in Dalvin Cook.

"He's an all-inclusive back," Joseph said. "He can do it all."

Besides the drafting of quarterback Justin Herbert, the signing of Linval Joseph might be the best move the Chargers made in 2020.

Nuts N’ Bolts

· Injury report. DNP: S Nasir Adderley (ankle), CB Michael Davis (hamstring), RB Justin Jackson (quad), CB Ryan Smith (knee). Limited: WR Keenan Allen (knee), OLB Joey Bosa (ankle), DB Mark Webb (knee). Full: TE Stephen Anderson (ankle), S Alohi Gilman (ankle), DB Trey Marshall (ankle), CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion).

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