Getting to know your roster depth: Linebackers
By Thomas Conroy
It’s no secret that the San Diego Chargers linebacker position has been an area of weakness for far too long. The starters have been ineffective and their backups are young with very little experience.
The Chargers desperately need defensive playmakers that can create a turnover and for once gain some momentum on their sideline. No question patience is running thin inside Qualcomm Stadium with each frustrating loss.
This week’s edition of getting to know your roster depth will take a closer look at the linebacker position:
After Denzel Perryman was selected in last spring’s NFL Draft, the Chargers’ hope for him was that he would challenge for one of the starting inside linebacker positions at some point in the regular season. Unfortunately, a pectoral injury has limited his playing time, but clearly Perryman’s skill-set is the right remedy to get rid of the Chargers defensive woes. It’s just a matter of time before he replaces either Donald Butler or Manti Te’o, as both have struggled with all aspects of their game. Neither are solid run defenders and definite liabilities on pass coverage.
Kyle Emanuel is one of the top rookies on the Chargers roster, as he shown the ability to be a very athletic pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position. Everyone in the team’s front office thought this season was going to be a learning experience for Emanuel. He was making the difficult adjustment of standing upright rather than taking a down stance at the line of scrimmage. Almost immediately from day one at rookie mini-camp, Emanuel showed the skills that made him a terrific pass-rusher at North Dakota State and this should help to accumulate sacks before too long in the NFL. He still looks lost on pass coverage, but you see the improvement as the season has progressed.
Cordarro Law came to San Diego with plenty of fanfare, as he had tremendous success in getting to the quarterback during his CFL days. However, Charger fans haven’t seen much production from him and its safe to say that Law’s time in the NFL has been an utter disappointment. Don’t give up on him just yet because he has gain some familiarity within the team’s defensive scheme, but his time on a NFL roster is slowly ticking away.
Kavell Connor has struggled all year, as he was supposed to challenge both Butler and Te’o for playing time with the first unit, but he hasn’t taken that next step. The defensive coaching staff expected him to be the physical presence needed to play against the run each week. Connor has become an important member of the roster, as he is the emotional leader for the unit. His play might not be up to standards right now, but expect him to get back on track by season’s end.
Nick Dzubnar was the longest of long shots to make the Chargers 53-man roster this summer, as he was an undrafted rookie free agent from a small college (Cal State San Luis Obispo) in California. The one aspect of his game that kept him in the conversation was that he was a fierce hitter from the inside linebacker position. Continually, Dzubnar made ball-carriers pay the price for running inside the box and that demeanor alone helped him gain a roster spot. Now, it’s up to Dzubnar to make an impact on special teams and become apart of the conversion to get defensive snaps.
With Manti Te’o’s return to the lineup still in doubt, it was necessary for the Chargers to sign another veteran linebacker, so they brought Joe May into the fold. He’s a slight upgrade, but May must return to his former hard-hitting ways and not disappear in games like he has done in his recent NFL stops. May was one of the New York Jets final cuts prior to start of the regular season.