Why Chargers should experiment with versatile Joey Bosa

SAN DIEGO -- For Joey Bosa, offseason workouts are more about learning the San Diego Chargers' defensive scheme than making "wow" plays during organized team activities.

Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, is making a transition to a new position as a 3-4 defensive end, and also has been used as an edge and interior rusher in passing situations during the Chargers' OTAs.

The Chargers are not in pads, so Bosa won't get a real feel for how opposing offenses will handle him until preseason games begin in August. But according to ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen, now is the time for defensive coordinator John Pagano to find out what his versatile rookie can do in his scheme.

"I do think you have to experiment with him standing up, too," Bowen said of Bosa. "There's nothing wrong with that at this time of the year. It's the best time to do stuff like that.

"See if he can play 3-4 outside linebacker. You might be surprised. I'm not saying he's going to be Von Miller, or a guy with that type of high-level athleticism that can drop or run with a running back down the field or cover a tight end down the field. But it's a perfect time to experiment with that."

Bowen said he never bought into the notion that Bosa cannot play defensive end in a 3-4 defensive front because of his lack of size for the position.

"If you're great with your hands, have a great first step, understand how to play with leverage and can get guys off of your body, that's more important than size," Bowen said. "What are you going to do, have a guy that's 20 pounds heavier but doesn't know how to use his hands? It's a waste of time, right?

"So you want a guy who is athletic enough and explosive enough at that point of attack to be able to hold that edge on a 3-4 front, and be able to get off a block on a 3-4 front."

Once the pads come out, Bosa will have to prove he can do that. I compared him to Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks, someone Bosa looked to in college as a player he could try to emulate.

Bennett played more than 500 snaps at defensive end last season, totaling 8.5 sacks. He also moved inside and played more than 200 snaps at defensive tackle, adding another 1.5 sacks as an interior rusher.

Bennett played 770 snaps for the Seahawks in 2015, and has finished with at least seven sacks in each of the past four seasons.

At 6-foot-4 and 274 pounds, Bennett is of similar size and stature to the 6-5, 280-pound Bosa.

Bowen provided another comparison, Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings.

At 6-3 and 273 pounds, Griffen has finished with at least eight sacks in three of the last four seasons. He had six tackles and 1.5 sacks in a Week 3 victory over the Chargers last year. Griffen played 800 snaps as a right end for the Vikings last season.

Bowen called Bosa the best pass-rusher in this year's draft. And although Bosa provides versatility and is a stout run defender, Bowen said the reason San Diego selected him was his ability to rush the passer. With the Chargers playing at least five defensive backs 65 percent of the time, Bosa will get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer from the edge.

"You have to manage expectations a little bit," Bowen said. "Even though he's this high-level guy, he's still a first-year player. He's still a rookie. It's still going to take him time, because all of those countermoves he used at Ohio State, some of those will translate to the NFL but some of those will get shut down by professional offensive tackles and guards.

"He's going to have to continue to develop, continue to study and find out what works. That's why it's so hard right now, because he doesn't really know what works, because he's going against a guy in shells and a helmet. He'll get introduced to that learning curve once training camp starts, and throughout the preseason games.

"If I was coaching Joey Bosa, I would play him as much as I can in the preseason, so he can start to work on that stuff and get the film. That's the biggest thing for young players. It's one thing to sit in the meeting room and watch film of the Chargers from last season on someone else. But he's not that player. You need game reps, so you can make mistakes and be corrected."