LOS ANGELES (AP) — In four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Sebastian Joseph-Day got to learn from some of the best interior defensive linemen of this generation including Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh and perhaps the best to ever play the position in Aaron Donald.
“Being able to pick those guys’ brains, learning how to be a pro’s pro, go about your business, it’s been a blessing,” Joseph-Day said.
But it was the teachings of then-defensive coordinator Brandon Staley in 2020 that did as much as anything for Joseph-Day to elevate his game, and their connection was the main factor in the defensive lineman’s decision to sign with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency.
“What brought me to the Chargers, obviously, was my awesome relationship with coach Staley,” Joseph-Day said at his introductory press conference Thursday after signing a three-year contract worth $24 million. “His philosophy. His mindset of the game.”
Joseph-Day’s most productive season was during Staley’s one year running the Rams defense which propelled him to become head coach of the Chargers. The Rutgers product had 55 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble as he started all 16 games, playing 40 percent of the snaps for the best defense in the NFL in both yards per play and points per game allowed.
It paid off the belief Staley showed in Joseph-Day going back to their first meeting.
“I introduced myself and he goes, ‘I know who you are,’” Joseph-Day said. “I was like, ‘You do?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I know who you are. You’re a good player. People don’t know about you yet, but people are going to find out about you real quick. You’re an up-and-coming, great defensive lineman that people are going to find out about.’”
If not for a pectoral injury that required surgery and limited him to seven games before returning for a three-snap cameo in the Super Bowl, Joseph-Day was on track to be even more effective this past season, which he credits to Staley stressing the importance of film study.
“I felt like I became such a better football player because of it, just watching film, knowing what they’re going to do based on backfield sets — basically, what the opposition is telling you because of him and the impact he left,” Joseph-Day said. “He’s a student of the game. He’s brilliant. I’m telling you, it’s going to be fun. I’m really excited.”
The reunion of Staley and Joseph-Day was the first of several moves to address the third-worst run defense in football, allowing 138.9 yards per game with 22 touchdowns.
The Chargers agreed to terms on Thursday to bring back Christian Covington, who had 52 tackles this past season . They have also added Austin Johnson, a six-year veteran who has played for Tennessee and the New York Giants, in free agency. And there could be more moves to come, with their first round draft pick at No. 17 overall another potential avenue to add an impact defender up front.
With his familiarity in Staley’s system and aware of his own upside, Joseph-Day understands he has to be at the center of shoring up the run defense. It is a challenge he is going to embrace.
“I think the evolution is going to be just me getting better,” Joseph-Day said. “That’s my main goal, to get better and do whatever I can to help this team win.”
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL