LA Chargers News

Chargers summer storylines: With new LBs on team, who will be the odd man (or men) out?

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 22: Virgil Green #85 of the Denver Broncos tackled by Hayes Pullard III #50 and Korey Toomer #56 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter at StubHub Center on October 22, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 22: Virgil Green #85 of the Denver Broncos tackled by Hayes Pullard III #50 and Korey Toomer #56 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter at StubHub Center on October 22, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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After selecting two a linebacker and a safety who will be converted into a linebacker-safety hybrid in the first four rounds of the draft, the Los Angeles Chargers will clearly have a new-look linebacker corps in 2018.

Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White were selected with the No. 48 and No. 119 overall pick, respectfully, in April’s draft.

Nwosu will add athleticism and bone-rattling tackling ability to the defense, along with some pass coverage skills. It may be even easier to get excited about. A safety in college at West Virginia, he will line up as a linebacker at the professional level, He will be solid in run support with the ability to hang with tight ends.

Obviously, Nwosu and White will be key pieces of the defense this coming season, so which players are going to take a back seat or even worse, have to look for employment elsewhere?

Denzel Perryman will remain one of the other starters, but where will these other guys play?

Kyle Emanuel

All snap count statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

2017 stats: 34 tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defensed

2017 snap count: 28.8 percent of defensive snaps, 35.6 percent of special teams snaps.

Uchenna Nwosu grew up a stone’s throw away from the StubHub Center. He’ll play the OTTO position in Gus Bradley’s scheme, currently occupied by Kyle Emanuel. “They’ve got a bunch of guys on that defense that are in attack mode, and that fits my style of play,” Nwosu said.

— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) April 28, 2018

Since being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, Emanuel has played in all but one game for the Chargers. However, he saw his production take a dip last season from the previous year and there’s a good chance he’ll take a back seat this year.

Hayes Pullard

2017 stats: 74 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery

2017 snap counts: 45.3 percent of defensive snaps, 5.1 percent of special teams snaps

It seemed Pullared would be just a guy to add some depth for the team but he ended up seeing much more action than anyone really expected. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley showed a lot of confidence in him as a fit for his system.

Jatavis Brown

2017 snaps: 79 tackles, 1 fumble recovery

2017 snap counts: 48.1 percent of defensive snaps, 16.7 percent of special teams snaps

Many fans would have liked to see Brown on the field at times when Pullard was out there, but I still feel Brown has a good future with this team, as I discussed here.

He didn’t have as much of an impact last season as he did as a rookie, but one stat that I love is that he was able to match his output in tackles despite far fewer snaps.

Guys like Nick Dzubnar, James Onwualu and Chris Landrum are all guys who could have appeared on this list, but they are all guys who most would agree are squarely on the roster bubble.

But out of Brown, Pullard and Emanuel, what does their future hold?

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Brown will stick with the team. He’s too talented not to. There’s even a chance he’ll be part of the starting lineup. For Emanuel and Pullard, their situations are much less clear.

Pullard is an average linebacker. He just is. He was given snaps last season as the new defensive scheme was foreign to a young player such as Brown. Bradley had Pullard in Jacksonville, so he went with experience.

Now that Brown has had more time to learn the system, he should get more of a look. Besides, Nwosu and White can each do everything that Pullard can do, they can just do it better.

The same can be said for Emanuel, a guy who realistically has been on the field more than he should have been. An underachieving Jeremiah Attaochu led to the team using him more.

The selections of Nwosu and White almost assuredly relegates Pullard and Emanuel to the bench. There’s a chance that one of them will make the final roster to add experienced depth, but there’s a good chance that at least one of them will be released.

Look for either Pullard or Emanuel to be on the chopping block at the end of this preseason.

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