When it comes to teaming up with Khalil Mack in 2022, Joey Bosa sounds as much like a Chargers fan as he does a Chargers player.
“I’m really excited,” said Bosa, speaking publicly for the first time this offseason, “just get out there and see what it’s like together.”
The newly paired star edge rushers shared the practice field Tuesday as the Chargers opened their two-day mandatory minicamp in Costa Mesa.
Bosa, 26, a four-time Pro Bowler, is entering his seventh season with the team that drafted him No. 3 overall in 2016.
Mack, 31, a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection, is going into his ninth season and first with the Chargers, who traded for him in mid-March.
“He was one of the guys I looked at and was like, ‘Dang, I have to compare to these guys. I can’t do that,’ ” Bosa remembered thinking early in his career. “But, obviously, I’ve really worked hard to get to this point.”
Trading with Chicago for Mack launched an aggressive offseason during which general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley rebuilt and restocked the defense.
They’ve added talent and depth on all three levels after lingering issues on that side of the ball left the Chargers and Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert barely short of the playoffs last season.
After acquiring Mack, the Chargers signed big-money cornerback J.C. Jackson, starting defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, and versatile two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
They added more key free agents in cornerback Bryce Callahan, defensive lineman Morgan Fox and linebacker Troy Reeder. With their second pick in the draft, the Chargers selected safety JT Woods out of Baylor in the third round.
Bosa admitted the parade of new faces and subsequent elevated expectations helped lure him back to Southern California sooner than normal.
In the past, he has trained near his offseason home in Florida before joining his teammates for minicamp. This year, Bosa arrived a week earlier.
“I think we all just have that feeling like — if we come together and give it our best shot — we can really take this all the way,” he said. “And, I mean, you never know how many more shots you’re gonna have left.”
Bosa said Giff Smith, who is in his first season coaching the Chargers’ edge rushers after spending six years working with the defensive line, also encouraged him to join the offseason program earlier.
Bosa said Smith wanted him to continue to grow more comfortable with the scheme installed last season and also become familiar with the new players who will be lining up around him.
Calling it “a good acclimation period,” Bosa indicated he will continue to participate in the offseason program held before the mandatory minicamp moving forward.
“It just says a lot about Joey that he’s here, that it means a lot to him,” Staley said. “I think we’re a much better team having him here, that’s for sure.”
Staley talked about the importance of building chemistry in the springtime, noting that doing so can only make the transition into training camp in late July that much easier.
Between Bosa and Mack, the Chargers hope to develop the sort of chemistry that can be nightmarish for opposing quarterbacks.
Coupled with Joseph-Day and Johnson in the middle, the forecasts are for notable improvement across a defensive front that wilted too often in 2021, particularly against the run and on third down.
“We complement each other really well,” Bosa said, speaking of Mack. “We rush really differently. So we’ve been bouncing ideas off of each other, just talking technique because we really have two pretty distinct styles of rushing.”
Mack called Bosa “very smart” and said he’s looking forward to their joint film sessions during the season.
“Sometimes, you probably get too far in his head because he knows so much …” Mack said. “It’s going to be fun to break down film together and watch each other and figure this thing out together.”
Because he isn’t a heavy social media consumer, Bosa joked that he didn’t know about any of the Chargers’ offseason moves until he heard about them second hand.
He said he seemed to recall that it was his bother, Nick, an edge rusher for San Francisco, who told him about the Mack trade.
“When I heard about Khalil, I wasn’t sure if it was real or not,” Bosa said, smiling. “So that took a little time. It’s just amazing to have a guy like that in our room.”
While Mack took part in the 11-on-11 walkthrough-pace portion of practice Tuesday, he continues to work his way back from a foot injury that limited him to seven games last season.
Staley has maintained since acquiring Mack that there are no concerns regarding his availability.
“There’s a long journey between now and our first game,” Staley said. “But I really like the progress he’s made. … The one thing about Khalil Mack is he will be ready to go.”
Chargers erring on the safe side with James: Safety Derwin James Jr. was held out of competitive drills as a precaution. Staley revealed Tuesday that James had surgery on his left shoulder after the Pro Bowl.
“If you know anything about Derwin,” Staley said, “it killed him that he wasn’t out there.”
James suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Chargers’ Week 3 victory at Kansas City but was able to continue playing. He is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
A movable chess piece: Van Noy spent Tuesday working with the inside linebackers. He also has played on the edge during his previous eight NFL seasons.
Staley said the plan is to tailor a position that best utilizes Van Noy’s skills and knowledge.
“It’s not a position that he hasn’t performed before,” Staley said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of and try to leverage his experiences within our defense.”
Etc. Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. watched a portion of practice in street clothes but with no visible brace on his surgically repaired ankle. Staley said Murray will be available “at some point” in training camp, suggesting he won’t be ready from Day One. Reeder appeared to be filling in for Murray with the first team. … Safety Mark Webb Jr. (knee) also didn’t practice. Staley said Webb would be ready for training camp. … Callahan was the slot corner with the first team, while returning starter Michael Davis was playing outside cornerback with the second team. … Storm Norton took the first reps at right tackle, followed by Trey Pipkins III.