Chargers LB Denzel Perryman’s return is much needed
By Matt Pagels
The Los Angeles Chargers are getting back one of their top run defenders in Denzel Perryman.
The Chargers have been without their starting middle linebacker for half the season.
Denzel Perryman, the Chargers’ 2015 second-round pick, underwent surgery in August to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle suffered in the team’s preseason opener.
Perryman, who was activated from injured reserve/designated to return Tuesday and practiced fully the remainder of the week, is set to make his 2017 NFL debut on Sunday vs. the surging Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a huge upgrade for a team that’s been struggling in run defense.
Actually, struggling is an understatement. The Chargers rank 31st in rushing defense, allowing 135.1 rushing yards per game. They have given up 4.6 yards per carry, tied for fifth-worst in the league.
And who is the Bolts’ next challenger? Stud rookie rusher Leonard Fournette. Fournette, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, is first in rushing yards per game (99.3), third in rushing touchdowns (six) and sixth in total rushing yards (596) among running backs. He has a solid 4.6 yards-per-carry average, too, third-best among running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts.
The Chargers need a thumper in the middle, and that’s exactly what Perryman is. Perryman helped the Chargers rank 10th in rushing defense a season ago.
It’s hard to argue against the Chargers’ linebackers being the biggest weakness on defense. I mean, just look at this stat on Hayes Pullard, who has been the one filling in for Perryman:
Hayes Pullard has been on the field for ~80% of the Chargers defensive snaps over the past month. He's PFF's second-worst graded defensive player this year. Ouch.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) November 9, 2017
According to LA Daily News’ Jack Wang, Perryman was expected to start at weakside linebacker (WILL) and may be on a snap count, as Pullard continues to man the MIKE. Pullard is listed as questionable with a neck injury going into Sunday’s game and is in danger of sitting out after logging limited practices throughout the week. If he doesn’t play, Perryman could potentially slide back into his original position in the middle. If he stays at WILL, then Korey Toomer would replace Pullard, which makes way more sense than playing Pullard to begin with.
And the Chargers’ best linebacker with Perryman out? Jatavis Brown, who’s had his fair share of ups and downs, has been incognito as of late. Brown, who is third on the team in combined tackles (53), has seen less than 30 defensive snaps in each of his last three games, per ProFootballReference.com. He has been playing through a high ankle sprain, Wang noted, and despite being left off the injury report in recent weeks, he clearly wasn’t fully healed.
In my opinion, not only does Perryman’s return give the Chargers a boost against the run, but his presence will certainly help out (a healthy) Brown. It wasn’t a coincidence that Brown thrived last season playing next to Perryman.