Chargers 2016 position grades: Outside Linebackers
By Travis Wakeman
We’re moving through our offseason position grades for the Los Angeles Chargers, and here, we get to talk about the outside linebacker position.
Outside of Melvin Ingram, the Chargers got just 4.5 sacks out of their outside linebackers last season. With Ingram set to become an unrestricted free agent, that is one factor the organization will have to consider. How effective would the group be without him?
Let’s see how this positional group graded out.
The fact that 64 percent of the team’s sacks made by an outside linebacker were registered by Ingram is reason enough for the team to re-sign him this offseason. That, and the fact that there is no suitable replacement for him on the roster.
Ingram had eight sacks last season and though you’d expect to see a player of his caliber have double digits every year in that category, the fact that the next best guy after him (and excluding Joey Bosa, who led the team) had just 3.5 sacks shows that this team just doesn’t get enough of a pass rush. However, if he stays in Los Angeles, new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley should be able to maximize Ingram’s ability.
He didn’t have a bad year by any stretch. Ingram had 46 tackles and also forced four fumbles, leading the team in that category. Most importantly, he played in all 16 games, something few Chargers could say they did last season. That marks two years in a row he has been on the field every game, and that alone is an important statistic.
He gets a high mark from me, and if the front office is smart, they’ll keep him in a Chargers uniform.
A fifth-round draft pick in 2015, Kyle Emanuel showed flashes of being an asset to the team as a rookie. He got a longer look in his second year, particularly with Jeremiah Attaochu missing time with injuries.
Emanuel finished the year with 58 tackles and half a sack. He also saw action on nearly 51 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.
While Emanuel is a burgeoning star for the team, he should give Attaochu plenty of competition for a starting spot in 2017. He didn’t do anything that jumped off the page last season, but he does show signs of being a big contributor down the road.
Jeremiah Attaochu had a disappointing 2016 season, mainly because injuries limited to just eight games. As a result, he had just two sacks on the year. After racking up six sacks in 2015, expectations were high for him coming into this season.
A former second-round draft pick, Attaochu’s career is starting to have more questions than answers. He’s yet to play a full 16-game season, and has just 10 sacks in three years. While others may firmly believe in his talent and abilities, those numbers just don’t get it done.
I can’t be too harsh on Attaochu for being injured, but he wasn’t very effective when he was on the field either, opening the door for Emanuel to take his job.
A former sixth-round draft pick, Tourek Williams has now logged four seasons with the Chargers. Used mostly on special teams, he is one of those players that does what is asked of him.
Most of what Williams did in 2016 came on the special teams unit, but he can make plays when given the opportunity. He had a sack on the year, giving him two for his career.
With guys like Ingram, Emanuel and Attaochu ahead of him on the depth chart, there likely won’t be much of a need for Williams unless there is an injury. Still, he’s a solid special teams player who adds good depth to the roster.
That was all displayed in 2016.
Hard work pays off.
That was the case for Chris Landrum in 2016. An undrafted rookie out of Jacksonville State, he faced long odds to make the roster. He was part of the team’s final roster cuts following the preseason, but was signed to the practice squad. In October, he was promoted to the main roster.
Landrum only saw 85 defensive snaps all season, but his first career sack came against Cam Newton in a game in December. Not bad.
It will be interesting to see how he progresses this season after having a taste of the main roster, even though he will have to show something in training camp and preseason just to make the final roster all over again.
The Chargers have some players who can make plays at the outside linebacker position. Players like Williams and Emanuel add needed depth on the roster, but re-signing Ingram should be one of the top priorities this offseason.
Attaochu will also have to do something to get back in the good graces of the organization, but he has the talent to do so if he can stay healthy.
As for the 2016 season, I feel like you saw a lot more positive than negative out of this group. Ingram is the real deal and the team has some good young pieces behind him that can chip in and make players here and there.