Adding Bud Dupree ‘stacks’ the Chargers pass rushing unit

Ric Tapia-The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Fernando Ramirez on what adding Bud Dupree means for the defense, how he will be used, and why he decided to join the Chargers.

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Settling doesn’t seem to be in the vocabulary of Jim Harbaugh, Joe Hortiz or their staff. They already had 173 career sacks in their edge rusher room and decided to add 53 more.

Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, and Tuli Tuipulotu were the Chargers’ pass-rushing engines last season, and in years past, it seemed like that was enough. Well, they added Bud Dupree on May 11th. 

“I think we’re kind of stacked,” Tulipulotu said.

Adding Dupree shows that the Chargers want to get after the quarterback with different players, and they have insurance because injuries happen.

It seems as though Dupree will be used as a third-down pass rusher, which he said years ago he might have had an issue with. However, going into his tenth season, he is embracing his new role.

“Having a situation like this to take a load off me, a load off my body, is tremendous,” Dupree said. “Obviously, I feel like it can extend my career and also help me make more plays.”

Last season, the Chargers had Mack, Bosa, and Tuli on the field at the same time 44 times, which resulted in 10 sacks, all of which came on third down. 

It will be interesting to see if Dupree will be added to the trio or how they will mix and match the four-edge rushers.

“That was kind of the ‘gimme,'” Dupree said. “I’m at a point in my career now, too, where it’s a different role for me now. Being able to be a third-down guy, especially a pass rush guy, but still being able to show my worth in the run is always a plus.”

During OTA practice on Wednesday, during 7-on-7 or special teams practice on the main field on the other side, Bosa, Dupree, and Mack were practicing their pass-rushing moves with a staff member holding a bag.

“Obviously, there will be a connection right away because of the respect level for your game is there,” Dupree said. “Being able to see and hone in on who he is as a person, who they are as family people outside of football will only make it better on the field with teamwork.”

Dupree has only been with the Chargers for three weeks, but he said that as a student of the game, he has watched film on his new teammates. He has also noticed what makes each of them special in terms of their pass-rushing ability.

On Mack:

“Everyone knows Khalil is going to be a power player, great at the top of the rush. He’s been doing it consistently for 11 years. That’s why he has 100-plus sacks.”

On Bosa:

“Joey, he’s a hands guy. You know he’s going to do his signature move and swipe you until the wheels fall off.”

On Tuli:

“Tuli coming in, I know he’s figuring himself out, but he’s one of those guys with tremendous upside and being able to bring a lot to the table.”

On all of them:

“Being able to see those people predicate their pass rush moves and continue to win over and over, it’s hats off to them.”

Mack is coming off his best season as a pro, sacking the opposing quarterback 17 times and even having a six-sack performance against the Raiders last season. If the Chargers had had a winning record, there is no doubt he would have been considered for Defensive Player of the Year.

Bosa has been slowed down the last two seasons due to injury, playing in 14 out of a possible 34 games, but he did come away with nine sacks in those games. He still has the moves and skillset to be one of the top pass rushers. He might benefit the most from the new additions to the staff when it comes to the “player performance” side of things.

There were questions about whether Bosa and Mack, along with receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, would return to the team with their cap numbers being so high. The Chargers staff decided that getting after the quarterback was more important than who would catch passes from Justin Herbert.

“Having both of them back and then adding Bud [Dupree], it’s been fun,” Tulipulotu said. “I think Bud brings a lot of energy to the room. That’s what I’ve been noticing in OTAs.”

Tuli was a rookie who came in ready to learn from two great pass rushers. He showed out from the beginning, but once Bosa went down with an injury, it was tough sledding as a starter. He learned from it and is ready to improve, going from 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss in his rookie season to having a bigger impact in year two.

Now Dupree is coming off a healthy season with the Falcons in 2023, sacking the opposing quarterback 6.5 times and forcing two fumbles. He hit the double-digit sack total once in his career in 2019 at 11.5. He has brought new energy to the squad.

“Bud, he’s consistently talking and every rep, ‘Let’s go, Joey. Let’s go, K-Mack,'” Tuipulotu said. “Even to the younger guys, too, ‘Good rep. Good spin.’ Stuff like that. It’s cool.”

Harbaugh and his staff are conscious that they play in a division with Patrick Mahomes. They also play against Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, and Kyler Murray, to name a few. They will need to get after the quarterback.

Dupree made a “no-brainer” decision to join this pass-rushing trio and Harbaugh. Right now, they are feeling out each other’s game, but soon, it will be about wreaking havoc and winning football games.

“We get the feel for each other, make sure that we trust each other to do each other’s job,” Dupree said. “Man, that’s when you can go out there and just play ball with your hair on fire, being able to make as many plays as you can.”