Last week, we took a look at how The Chargers can fix their defensive secondary next season. This week we dive in to the position that may have a direct effect to the those struggling defensive backs…
The outside linebackers for The Chargers, have been like a revolving door in 2013. To say that the linebacker position has been hit by injuries is an understatement. Three linebackers were lost to injured reserve throughout the course of the season. Coupled with the departure of free agents Shawn Phillips and Antwan Barnes, this groups depth was thin right from the start.
As we breakdown how The Chargers can fix the depth at this position, let’s first talk about the linebackers currently on the roster.
Melvin Ingram: The first big injury hit to The Chargers, Ingram tore his ACL back in OTAs. A second year player, Ingram was expected to make a big jump as a full time starter. Activated off the PUP list this week, The Chargers will have 21 days to make a decision as to whether or not Ingram will see the field in 2013. Ingram’s potential has major upside and will be The Chargers premiere linebacker for the foreseeable future.
Jarrett Johnson: Veteran Linebacker, leadership presence, good option against the run, liability against the pass. Under contract through 2016. Johnson has been in and out of the lineup this year with various injuries and while his experience is beneficial to the younger players, how much longer he can be effective is questionable.
Dwight Freeney: Brought in as free agent after Ingram went down with an injury. Many questioned Freeney’s capability to rush the passer after landing on IR for his final year in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, Freeney found the his way on to the injured reserve list again, tearing his quad in week 4. Signed a Two Year, 8.75 million dollar contract, however the deal is incentive based for sacks and playing time. While Freeney’s name is big, his impact on defense may not be what it once was. It’s possible that The Chargers will not bring him back in 2014.
Larry English: What more is there left to say? English has held the “Bust” label for the last several years and his tenure with The Chargers will end on the injured reserve list yet again. English never lived up to the his draft value, was constantly injured and never made a difference making impact on defense. English is a free agent next season. He will NOT be brought back.
Thomas Keiser: Free agent pickup for depth, spent first two seasons with Carolina, was signed to the practice squad to start the season. He was forced to the active roster due to injuries at the linebacker position. Keiser has started 6 games posting 15 solo tackles and 3 sacks this season. Great attitude, good potential as a future rotational pass rusher.
Tourek Williams: 2013 6th round pick out of Florida International, had flashes of potential in preseason but has since been injured or ineffective. Williams biggest impact came in week 10 vs Denver, sacking Peyton Manning and forcing a fumble. Like Keiser, Williams may be a good 3rd down rotational linebacker in the future.
So how can The Chargers rebuild their pass rushing unit? First and foremost in my opinion would be the draft. A premiere pass rusher will definitely be high on The Chargers draft board and there is no shortage of them in this year’s class. UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, Vic Beasley from Clemson and Kyle Van Noy from BYU are all prospects The Chargers could target. The free agent class for outside pass rushers is slim at best. The biggest name is Brian Orakpo who Washington will for sure bring back.
Because of the lack of free agent talent at this position and with The Chargers new “youth movement philosophy” look for the bolts to spend a high draft pick on an outside linebacker in May.
What do you guys think? What’s the best way to fix The Chargers depth at outside linebacker?
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