It’s not revolutionary.
Many coaches have stated that an elite defense must be strong in the middle: with productive playmakers at interior defensive line, inside linebacker and free safety. We can check one of those boxes off with the mighty Beard (at least for the time being). Now, with the addition of Denzel Perryman in the 2nd round of the draft, have the Bolts added another piece to that puzzle?
As a Miami Hurricane, Perryman was a rolling ball o’ butcher knives in the middle. In 2014, he recorded 110 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, five passes batted and an interception. But the stats don’t account for the kind of snot-bubble inducing hits he committed at The U. Feel free to take this time to watch his youtube highlight reel. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Ferocious, huh? In my opinion, we haven’t seen that kind of intimidation factor on our squad since a healthy Shawne Merriman.
Perryman plays the “Mike” ‘backer: the strong side inside linebacker. This position is typically the more physical of the inside ‘backers, as the tendency for offenses is to run to the strong side. Because of this, a Mike linebacker has to be tough enough to take on pulling guards and fullbacks in the hole.
If you’re not sure who the Mike is when watching a game, just look for the guy Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and #18 in orange are pointing to before every snap. They are identifying the Mike so that the line and backs can determine who they have in the called protection.
“But we already have two starting inside linebackers!” some have said. Well, the NFL isn’t like high school where you just have “first-stringers.” The NFL is a situational league. Coaches are putting the best players on the field for the play they believe the opposing offense/defense is about to throw at them. For example, it’s estimated that NFL defenses are in Nickel and Dime (subpackages) more than 50% of the time these days. Point is, a team needs much more than just “starters,” so another player with a different skill set at the all-important middle linebacker position should be welcomed.
Let’s breakdown the positives and negatives of bringing this particular middle linebacker to San Diego.
It would be difficult to talk about the Chargers linebackers without mentioning the injury problems we’ve faced. Te’o has twice had a broken foot, and missed 6 games last year. Butler missed the final two games with a dislocated elbow, but more importantly, is coming off a disastrously poor season… some say because of lingering injuries. Perryman will certainly help in that regard. The other positive is that if Butler’s poor performance continues, he will be a candidate to have his bloated contract restructured after this season… and having another linebacker with a season under his belt will certainly help the Chargers’ bargaining position.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Now, for the biggie…
The Chargers ranked 26th last year in rushing defense (124.1 ypg allowed). 26th ain’t good. And as coaches know from Pee Wee leagues on up, if you can’t stop the run, you can’t win championships. The good news is, Perryman is an anvil in run support. A true Mike thumper in the mold of David Harris or Jerod Mayo. A sure tackler, Perryman seems to always know where to “fit” – what his gap responsibility is, making plays in the run game when he’s supposed to make them.
Along with being an instinctive and aware linebacker, Perryman is also an enforcer: someone who can turn the momentum of a game with a big hit. He possesses the same kind of intensity and intimidation as another former Hurricane linebacker, Ray Lewis.
Unlike Ray Ray, however, Perryman doesn’t possess his type of athletic ability. Perryman doesn’t have the greatest feet (a 4.78 40 time at the combine). Some might also include height as a detriment, but Sam Mills and London Fletcher did pretty damn well in the league at shorter statures than Perryman.
The issue with athleticism becomes a bigger factor in the passing game. In Nickel packages, the Mike is most often substituted for safety or corner who is far better in coverage. Problem is, NFL offenses aren’t always nice enough to only pass when a defense is playing Nickel.
Remember when I said the NFL is a situational league? “Situation” really translates to “match-ups.” Offenses are always trying to create personnel mismatches. All that motion before the snap is an attempt to recognize, and many times create, the mismatch: isolate a slower linebacker on a running back; a small corner on a big tight end; a strong safety on an X wideout, etc. Will Perryman be quick enough to stick with a running back on the wheel route or a tight end up the seam? Opposing offenses are sure to test him early and let us know.
There’s a good chance Tom Telesco felt a strong need to improve upon that 26th ranking when he drafted Denzel Perryman. And Perryman will certainly help. But there’s a bigger problem that still concerns me when it comes to our rushing defense: our defensive line.
If our defensive line doesn’t improve in the run game… if we can’t get better end play out of Kendall Reyes, or by replacing him… if Ryan Carrethers can’t hold the double team and keep our inside linebackers clean from slipping guards… then the ghost of Ray Nitschke at ‘backer isn’t going to help us stop the run.
PLAYER GRADE: B+
CHARGER SCHEME GRADE: B
What do you all think of the Perryman pick?
More from Bolt Beat
- LA Chargers: Drue Tranquill takes a jab at Gus Bradley’s defense
- LA Chargers second-year players: Nothing lose and a lot to gain
- LA Chargers: Why running back could be a big issue for the Bolts
- LA Chargers: Chris Rumph’s upside is Melvin Ingram-like, but better
- Chargers: Reggie Slater calls LA the “dream scenario” for Rashawn Slater