July 26, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson (96) and linebacker Takeo Spikes (middle) and linebacker Donald Butler (56) participate in a drill during training camp at Charger Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A Look at the Linebacker Position

Last season, the defense had an under the radar gang of Linebackers, we started the season with 10 on the roster and for the most part, many of them contributed heavily whether as a starter, a rotational player or on special teams. Our team of linebackers were fierce and one of the strengths of the team.

Depth Chart 2012:

Right OLB: Shaun Phillips Antwan Barnes Larry English
Right ILB: Takeo Spikes Jonas Mouton Bront Bird (late addition)
Left ILB: Donald Butler Demorrio Williams Andrew Gachkar
Left OLB: Jarrett Johnson Melvin Ingram

A year later, Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes are signed to new teams, while Spikes and Williams are free agents. It’s a different look from the previous year, we don’t have the familiarity and reliability we had from sack-happy Shaun Phillips and the leadership of Takeo Spikes will be replaced with the youthful movement of Butler’s regime.

The 2013 depth chart at linebacker is starting to pan out like this:

Depth Chart 2013:

Right OLB: Melvin Ingram Larry English
Right ILB: Manti Te’o Bront Bird Jonas Mouton
Left ILB: Donald Butler D.J. Smith Andrew Gachkar
Left OLB: Jarrett Johnson Tourek Williams

Linebackers Jarrett Johnson, Donald Butler, Manti Te’o and Melvin Ingram looks to be set as the starters and this can potentially be an awesome group if Te’o proves he was worth trading up for and Ingram lives up to his hype. We’ll need depth at outside linebacker, someone that can rush the passer like Phillips and Barnes did.

Could rookie Tourek Williams be that guy? Has Larry English absorbed all the knowledge and technique the past four seasons to prove his 1st round worth? What happens if Donald Butler gets hurt can Smith, Bird or Mouton step up? Andrew Gachkar is a special teams player at best. Mouton is untested and that falls on the hands of Norv Turner for not seeing what this 2nd round pick was capable of.

Thus far, Bront Bird has more experience and significant playing time than Mouton. At best D.J. Smith is a back-up, but if healthy could have been a steal in free agency.

There are plenty of questions left unanswered until the first snap of the 2013 season when the Chargers take the field. The most promising part from the list above, all these guys are under the age of 25 except Johnson (31) and English (27). It’s time for the kids to prove themselves. There’s no better time than now!

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