Chargers decide to move on from DT Jerry Tillery

The Chargers made an interesting move on Thursday evening when they waived former first-round draft pick defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.

The Chargers made an interesting move on Thursday evening when they waived former first-round draft pick defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.

It was a surprise move because it happened during the season. So, what happened?

“I think that there’s just a point in relationships like this where you have to move on,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “It’s best for both people to move on; that’s just what happened here.”

Tillery was having a below-average season with eight tackles, one sack, and two quarterback hits. He hadn’t made the impact that many thought he would, especially with the additions of Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, and Austin Johnson.

The Chargers did hit a rough spot last Sunday against Atlanta. Johnson suffered an MCL injury and would be done for the season. The Chargers needed reinforcements, so they signed defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko to the roster.

During his press conference on Friday, Staley mentioned that Tillery would be in a battle with Fehoko and Joe Gaziano for playing time. Staley has always preached competition, regardless of players’ salary, draft selection, or any of it. Everyone competes.

“Competing visions for the role, moving forward. It just became clear that it wasn’t going to be a fit anymore,” Staley explained. “Where we’re headed, as a team, wasn’t going to be compatible with Jerry [Tillery] and where he is trying to go.”

The former first-round draft pick didn’t sound open to the idea, but what did he expect? It is not like Tillery was of the caliber of Aaron Donald. The reality is that he was a below-average defensive lineman.

In the offseason, the Chargers brass decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. That probably didn’t sit well with the defensive tackle, but it is the reality.

During his three and half seasons as a Charger, Tillery has sacked the opposing quarterback 10.5 times, and during that time, he has been penalized 12 times, leading to first downs, according to the AP’s Joe Reedy.

“With where we’re at and what we’re trying to do with our team — on the defensive line, our defense, on the whole team — trying to create competition and have guys earn their roles,” Staley said.

The Chargers have one of the worst defenses against the run, so they want to try something new and mix things up. Fehoko showed last season that he could help against the run game, and the coaching staff believes in him.

“I think that he’s improving all the time. He’s one of us, and that’s important,” Staley said. “He’s going to go out there, and he’s going to play well on Sunday night.” 

According to Reedy, Tillery’s snap count had also gone down, from 71% the last two seasons to 42.3% this season, so there was more of a rotation. The former Notre Dame player will be able to be claimed on Monday, so there will be some suitors.

Staley did say they will be counting on Fehoko and Gaziano this weekend versus San Francisco, while the former first-round draft pick awaits to see what team he will play for next.

“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for your team, and that’s what we did,” Staley said.

Nuts N’ Bolts

  • Chargers injury report. OUT: WR Keenan Allen (hamstring), WR Mike Williams (ankle), K Dustin Hopkins (hamstring). Doubtful: OLB Chris Rumph II (knee). Questionable: G Brenden Jaimes (shoulder), RT Trey Pipkins (knee).
  • Staley said they don’t know yet if Pipkins will play but if he doesn’t it will be between Storm Norton and Foster Sarell.
  • Staley also said WR Mike Williams may return to practice next week. Allen is doing better this week than last week.
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