CLEVELAND — It took some time.
“They’re winning one-on-ones,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “They’re taking pressure off Melvin Ingram, so that’s what we need to see.”
Bosa has a bruised left foot that he injured in August, forcing him to miss the first six games of the regular season. He began riding a bike as part of his rehab this week and could be back in action Week 9 on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
For a second straight game, do-everything defensive lineman Damion Square started in place of Bosa at strongside defensive end. The Alabama product was active, finishing with 1.5 sacks and three combined tackles, including a tackle for a loss.
“Each week, you come up with different plans, how you want to utilize your guys, so we’re doing that,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said earlier this week. “Obviously, with a guy like Joey, you say, ‘Well, he’s going to line up on one side and Melvin on the other, and there are going to be times when they lineup together. Let’s build it from there.’
“So, now, there’s maybe a little bit more creativity in how we design things and where we place people, but we try to give different looks at times.”
Square, who usually backs up Brandon Mebane at nose tackle, said he’s relishing being a starter for the first time in his six-year career. Square dropped a few pounds so he can play lighter on the edge of the defense.
“I try to remember I’m playing for Joey Bosa, a guy that brings a lot to this team,” Square said. “So I’m trying to fill in at that spot and be valuable.
“I know who he is, and I’m quite sure he would’ve had a hell of a day today. So I’m out there for him, I understand what he brings to the team and that position. And there’s no way I’m going to let my teammates watch tape and think I’m not good enough to fill in at that spot.”
The Chargers finished with five sacks against the Browns, with hobbled Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield uncomfortable for most of the game.
After totaling eight sacks the first four games, the Chargers have used a mix of different pressures and coverages to total eight sacks over the past two games, both wins.
“We’re doing the same thing, we’re just rushing,” Ingram said. “We knew it was going to come. Everybody said we couldn’t get pressure in the beginning, but we’re doing the exact same thing we were doing at the beginning of the year. But we’re just rushing and having fun.”
Another thing Square pointed to is just having more bodies active on game days. Chargers defensive line coach Giff Smith had eight defensive linemen available against the Browns, and all eight played, which means more fresh bodies available to get after the quarterback.
“This is the first time I’ve been around where we rotate as much as we do,” Bradley said this week. “It’s good and bad, but the good part outweighs the bad part of it.
“The good is that you keep guys fresh. Then, somewhere if an injury happens and the next guy comes in, really the whole defense doesn’t blink because they’ve played. I really like it. I think it’s a credit to Giff for having that philosophy, and obviously for guys morale it’s great because a lot of guys are getting playing time.”
Cornerback Casey Hayward said it’s not only the responsibility of the pass-rush to get after the quarterback, but also the defensive backs and linebackers to play sticky coverage, creating more time to sack the quarterback.
“Coverage and rush together,” the All-Pro corner said. “So if they’re not getting pass rush, we must not be doing our job in the back end, as well.
“We just want to play as well as we can, especially in the back end. For me, I feel like when I play good, we have a really good chance of winning. We’re 4-2 right now, so we’ll go with it and we’ve just got to keep moving.”