Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (2022)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (1)

    Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel #4 completes the pass as he is pulled down by Los Angeles Rams linebacker Daniel Hardy #44 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (2)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (3)

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 warms up before the preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (4)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 makes the catch in warmups before the preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (5)

    Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 celebrates after stoping Los Angeles Rams running back Jake Funk #34 in the backfield in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (6)

    Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, left and Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talk before the first preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (7)

    Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joe Reed #12 celebrates his touchdown catch in front of Los Angeles Rams safety Terrell Burgess #26 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (8)

    Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Troy Reeder #42 stops Los Angeles Rams running back Jake Funk #34 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (9)

    Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joe Reed #12 makes the touchdown catch behind Los Angeles Rams safety Terrell Burgess #26 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (10)

    Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay watches the play in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (11)

    Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joe Reed #12 celebrates his turndown catch with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter #82 against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (12)

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Luis Perez #14 warms up before the first preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (13)

    Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay before the first preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (14)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 makes the catch over Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Deane Leonard #33 and breaks free for the touchdown in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (15)

    Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Deane Leonard #33 hits Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Austin Trammell #4 before catching the punt in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (16)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 makes the catch and breaks free for the touchdown from Los Angeles Chargers defenders in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (17)

    Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 trips up Los Angeles Rams running back Jake Funk #34 on a short run in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (18)

    Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 celebrates after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (19)

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    Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 celebrates after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (20)

    Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley #25 is taken by Los Angeles Rams linebacker Daniel Hardy #44 and Los Angeles Rams safety Jake Gervase #39 on a run in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (21)

    Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (22)

    in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (23)

    Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Foster Sarell #73 blocks Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Michael Hoecht #96 in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (24)

    Los Angeles Rams safety Dan Isom #41, right intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Chargers Michael Bandy #83 as Los Angeles Rams linebacker Jake Hummel #59 fights for the ball in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (25)

    Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Deane Leonard #33 hits Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Austin Trammell #4 before he can catch the punt in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (26)

    Los Angeles Rams safety Dan Isom #41, right intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Chargers Michael Bandy #83 as Los Angeles Rams linebacker Jake Hummel #59 fights for the ball in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (27)

    Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel #4 in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (28)

    Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day #69 on the sidelines in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (29)

    Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talks with Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day #69 on the sidelines in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (30)

    Los Angeles Rams linebacker Jake Hummel #59 hits Los Angeles Chargers running back Larry Rountree III #34 in the air to stop the run in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (31)

    Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Kemon Hall #37 stop Los Angeles Rams running back A.J. Rose #24 in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (32)

    Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talks with Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko #96 on the sidelines in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (33)

    Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald #99 smiles at fans on the sidelines in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (34)

    Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Kampmoyer #87 celebrates his two point conversion against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (35)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 celebrates with teammates after his touchdown catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (36)

    Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald #99 on the sidelines in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (37)

    Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick #2 passes the ball against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (38)

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon #82 makes his second touchdown catch of the night as Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Brandon Sebastian #38 defends in the second half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (39)

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 avoids Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Jamal Davis II #44 in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (40)

    Los Angeles Rams running back A.J. Rose #24 runs against Los Angeles Chargersin the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chargers give preview of upgraded defense in exhibition opener vs. Rams (41)

    Los Angeles Chargers fans cheer in the first half of a preseason game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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INGLEWOOD — When the 2021 season was done and the Chargers failed to advance to the playoffs with a pedestrian 9-8 record, their self-examination began, with coach Brandon Staley meeting with general manager Tom Telesco, president of football operations John Spanos and team owner Dean Spanos.

A consensus was reached. The Chargers’ defense simply wasn’t good enough.

It couldn’t match up to an offense that seemed capable of scoring at will at times and improved special teams, and it proved costly in the final analysis, ranking 29th in the NFL in points allowed and 23rd in yards given up. So, the rest of the offseason was devoted to bolstering the defense.

The results of all of their labor weren’t fully on display during the Chargers’ 29-22 loss to the Super Bowl champion Rams in their exhibition opener Saturday night at SoFi Stadium, and they might not be until the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the Las Vegas Raiders, and in the weeks to come.

The signs of a deeper and far more talented defense were evident — not necessarily by who was on the field Saturday, but by who wasn’t.

Khalil Mack, acquired from the Chicago Bears to form a pass-rushing tandem with fellow outside linebacker Joey Bosa, didn’t play Saturday and probably won’t if Staley sticks with his plan to keep the starters off the field until Sept. 11. Bosa also didn’t play against the Rams.

Defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day, a free-agent signee who won a Super Bowl ring with the Rams last season, and Austin Johnson, a free agent from the New York Giants, didn’t play. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots in 2018, didn’t play.

Cornerback J.C. Jackson, a free agent from New England, didn’t play, either.

Expectations have been heightened.

“I expect us to play team defense,” Staley said when asked recently about his own expectations. “Last year, that was a weakness of our football team. I don’t expect that to be the case (this season). That’s why all of those guys are here.”

Of particular concern at season’s end back in January was the sorry state of the Chargers’ defensive line. The Chargers ranked a lowly 28th in yards-per-carry last season and gave up 100 yards or more in 12 of 17 games. Joseph-Day and Johnson were added to improve matters.

“They just have to be themselves,” Staley said of his initial expectations for a new and improved defensive line. “All of those guys that we acquired through trade or free agency, those guys are proven NFL players. It’s just being themselves.”

Asked specifically about Joseph-Day, Staley said: “Sebastian is one of the top interior defenders in the league. We brought him here because he’s made up of all the right stuff. He’s an intense competitor. He loves the work.”

By adding Jackson and Bryce Callahan, a free agent from the Denver Broncos, and drafting JT Woods in the third round, Ja’Sir Taylor in the sixth round and Deane Leonard in the seventh, the Chargers also beefed up their secondary beyond all-pro safety Derwin James Jr.

Not all the talent was on the sideline Saturday, though.

Defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, safety Nasir Adderley and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. were in the Chargers’ starting lineup. Chris Rumph II, expected to be a backup to either Bosa or Mack, sacked Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins for a 10-yard loss, halting a first-quarter drive.

Cornerback Michael Davis broke up a pass from Perkins to Brycen Hopkins along the sideline, on a third-and-12 play at the Rams’ 42 yard line in the first quarter. Troy Reeder, who might be a starting linebacker by Sept. 11, stopped running back Raymond Calais for no gain in the second quarter.

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In the end, the Chargers had a difficult time attempting to contain Perkins, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. Several times it appeared the Chargers had Perkins pinned for a loss only to see him slip away for a big gain. He led the Rams with 39 yards rushing.

The Chargers also hurt themselves with sloppy play at times.

“We fouled too much in the deep part of the field tonight and that was kind of the story for us on defense,” Staley said at game’s end of the Chargers’ nine penalties for 120 yards. “I thought we played really well on defense outside of that. A couple of those calls I’m not in total alignment with.”

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