June 11, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney (95) hits a bag during drills at Chargers minicamp at Chargers park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Roster projection Linebacker pre-camp opening edition – Where is the pass rush?

At the OTA’s the major news offseason was the loss of Melvin Ingram to a season ending knee injury, which lead to maybe the most the talked about signing of the offseason in Dwight Freeney. Me personally I would have felt a whole lot better, to not only sign Freeney but to combine his skills in the development of Ingram, as it stands Freeney is the only proven pass rusher on the roster, and with a pass driven league, the pass rush just keeps rising in its importance for defensive productivity.

The inside linebacker position seems to be the only position that has talent and experience throughout; the chargers are hoping that starters Donald Butler, Manti Te’o will produce for years to come. There is depth behind them, with Butler missing much of the backend of the 2012 season Bront Bird & Andrew Gachkar received playing time, and played well. The chargers brought in another former productive Green Bay defender in D.J. Smith, who had 39 tackles in less than 6 games as a starter last year before getting hurt. And then there is the curious case of Jonas Mouton, drafted as a second rounder, considered by most publications somewhere between a 5-7 rounder, he missed all of his rookie season, and even with the injury to Butler who couldn’t get ahead of Bird & Gachkar, the drafting of Teo is clearly a vote of no confidence towards him.

So let’s get down to specifics:

Inside Linebackers: The 2 starters are considered cornerstones for the future of the defense, after that you have 5 players fighting for 3 spots. My projection is for the team to carry 5 ILB’s.

Locks to make the roster (3): Donald Butler, Manti Te’o, D.J. Smith

Training camp battles:

For (2) spots at ILB: Bront Bird, Andrew Gachkar, Jonas Mouton, Daniel Molls. I would be more than surprised to see Bird & Gachkar not on this roster, as both have gotten playing time and are useful on special teams. Mouton’s only claim to the roster spot is being a high draft pick, but this front office has no connection to that pick, and Molls was the leading tackler in the NCAA for Toledo last year, he’s undersized (6’0 238 lbs) but the speed is good at 4.7, his super hustle should translate to special teams. At worst Molls seems like a lock for the practice squad.
Projected roster players: Bird, Gachkar.

Projected ILB’s (5): Butler, Te’o, Smith, Bird, Gachkar.

Commentary: I would still keep an eye on the chargers on adding a veteran spot starter to this group, Demorrio Williams, Bradie James are guys available that make sense.

Outside Linebackers: The veterans Freeney & Johnson look to be the starters and locks for the roster, I will add Larry English as a lock for the simple fact there is major lack of experience behind him and Johnson has proven very little as a pass rusher in the past, and there seems to be a buzz of him being healthy and being ready to produce. The rest of the OLB’s have little pedigree or experience.

Locks to make the roster (3): Dwight Freeney, Jarret Johnson, Larry English

Training camp battles:

For (2) spots at OLB: The battle for the last 2 spots comes down to Thomas Keiser, who was a productive spot player for the Panthers in 2011, and 3 rookies who very little pedigree to speak of, Tourek Williams who was drafted in the 6th round, the fact he was drafted, has better measurables (6’3 260lbs, 4.70 speed, and better level of competition should give him the advantage over the 2 slightly undersized small school pass rushers in Frank Beltre & Devan Walker. Beltre tested slighty better 4.65 speed to Walker 4.72, but Walker was a little more productive in having 8 sacks to Beltre 5. Beltre or Walker should at least make the practice squad. Either way you slice it, its slim pickings all around, somebody has to make to roster.
Projected roster players: Keiser & Williams.

Projected OLB’s (5): Freeney, Johnson, English, Keiser & Williams.

Commentary: I would prefer to have another veteran to this group, the chargers need the 5 sacks in his final 5 games Freeney, and English to finally come through for this defense to be around the top 10 defense they were in 2012. If anything English will get the most playing time he’s had since his rookie season, to prove he can play. Keep an eye on Bryan Thomas of the Jets as veteran player to compliment the current group.

Tags: Featured Popular San Diego Chargers

  • ECAVILLE/Ace of Spades

    I’m on fire with the commenting today. If Larry English tears it up this year I wonder who would get the credit Larry or the coaching staff. English will be who we thought he would be. Playing for all of the right reasons this season! WORD!

    • Sergio Quintero

      Larry English even more than Ryan Mathews is on a make or break season, he will get playing time, and I trust Pagano to put him in positions to succeed.

    • http://boltbeat.com/ Ernie Padaon

      love that you are on fire with the comments today

  • Ioane

    I hope we make a trade in next years draft and go after Anthony Barr.

    • Sergio Quintero

      Very much concur, I just wish the chargers do well enough that they are not in position to even trade for him. I know that sounds weird.

  • Dave

    Look at the film on Frank Beltre and you’ll be pleasantly blown away. I’d hate for the Chargers to cut him as the guy’s a baller! Can’t wait to see him in pre-season because he does everything very very well.

    • Sergio Quintero

      I have seen some film on Devan Walker, dude plays like his hair is on fire, which does exposes him to screens & reverses, but playing speed is very good. Spin move and speed rush there is something there.

      What I have seen and read on Beltre, he’s mostly played as DT in college, and he’s still raw as an OLB, but the tested well (4.65 speed).

      You can never have enough pass rushers, as we have learned from the giants.

      • arnie

        reminds me of what Lights Out used to do for the Chargers, completely disruption in the backfield

  • tubbs45

    I would welcome Demorrio Williams back for depth, but Gachkar has got to stay. He is a great special teamer and a solid backup. of the young ones, I see Tourek and Kieser, making the squad. I dont think either would pass waivers to the PS…

  • davacho

    good article. I agree with most picks (for some reason I want bird to succeed). I would leave 40 times out of it- especially when we’re talking a few tenths of a second. tape don’t lie! go bolts!

    • http://boltbeat.com/ Ernie Padaon

      I don’t know why. I am a big bird fan too. did I say big bird?

    • Sergio Quintero

      The 40 times is too just differentiate players that are very similar, and to set an expectation.

      As an example anybody who talks about Marcus Cromartie is going to go automatically to the physical skill set.

      • davacho

        we’re both fans- let’s just agree to disagree. : )

        • Sergio Quintero

          Sounds good to me

  • Cgoodness13

    Bird played in the 4-2-5 in college right?

    • Sergio Quintero

      I believe Texas Tech does run it, and the defense is popular with the spread offense craze.

  • C.Steele

    Pretty good article. However, I do take exception to the notion that TT picking Te’o is vote of not confidence to Mouton. Te’o could prove to be an exceptional talent stolen in the 2nd Round. I have to admit, because Mouton was taken in 2nd round I been pulling for him to showup and show he wasn’t a wasted pick!!!! (I Mean 2nd Round for Pete Sake!!! I don’t want this to be AJ’s parting kick to the gonads) So, I’d like to see him make the squad. I Also would rather have Gachkar then Bird. I know a lot of folks like Bird, but he didn’t really impress me with what I saw and, I like Andrew’s story better :) Personal Preference. But, I really did enjoy the article, very well thought out and solid argurments for everything! #GoBolts

    • Sergio Quintero

      I hope Mouton proves me wrong, but Butler got hurt and he still couldn’t get on the field.

      This is his third year, the season he has to prove he can play, and the front office responds by trading up in the second round, not exactly a sign of trust. It smells, it looks, it feels like a kick in the gonads.

      Gachkar is more of a lock than Bird for me, being a core special teamer, I liked what I saw when Gachkar played, so I’m all for him making the team.

      • C.Steele

        LOL! I got nothing! I will aqueous to a damn good argument!
        #Cheers #GoBolts!

    • Alter Ego

      nice job C.Steele – I concur.

      • C.Steele

        Thanks P Hamlyn!

  • d’Heillylp

    Forget editing; does Quintero even bother to reread his material after writing it?

  • Alter Ego

    English brings it this year – the heat is on – rabid dog style defense.

  • DavidSD17

    You seriously need to check your articles for grammatical mistakes before you release them to the public.

  • DeRick Burton

    This being a rebuild year, I’m pulling for them to be competitive and seal wins instead of blowing leads. Signing decent veterans is one thing but it’s not a long term fix. I’d love to see them trade in the draft to take Clowney from South Carolina, that guy is a beast I the middle.