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LA Chargers: Grading the 2020 linebacker position

DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 01: Denzel Perryman #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with Kyzir White #44 and Derwin James #33 after making an interception against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 01, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 01: Denzel Perryman #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with Kyzir White #44 and Derwin James #33 after making an interception against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 01, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

Drue Tranquill

I wrote a more expansive take on Tranquill earlier this week, but to summarize, he has a real opportunity to become a quality starter in the middle. Davis was released prior to free agency. If we’re to assume that Murray probably starts on the outside at least for a decent part of his rookie season, Tranquill’s only real competitors for the middle linebacker spot are Denzel Perryman and Kyzir White.

We’ll talk about both Perryman and White more specifically a little bit later, but Tranquill is in a better position than either of them with the 2019 he had. Strong tackling ability, youth and availability are factors as well, in comparison to someone like Perryman. White has been decent, but the coaching staff doesn’t seem to have the most faith in him.

I’ve used the term “phase out” when talking about the older linebackers on the team. Tranquill, Murray, and to a lesser degree, White, are leading that youth movement. I’m not sure how the long term dynamic between Tranquill and Murray will play out, but with one season already under his belt, Tranquill seems to be in a position to take the most snaps on the team. How effective he is in an expanded role could really determine whether the LA Chargers have a good defense or an elite one.

Denzel Perryman

2020 is likely Perryman’s last year as a Charger. His role has mostly declined over the last year or so, following a series of successive injuries, most recently his knee in the 2018 season. It’s a shame since Perryman was playing the football of his career until that injury.

481 snaps was the peak count for Perryman in 2016. Since then, he’s played 273, 386, and 359 snaps in the last three seasons respectively. That last snap count is particularly troubling for Perryman, given that he was healthy for 14 games. He simply got beat by other linebackers on the roster.

There’s no doubt that he’s still a good run defender. His coverage skills have severely declined though, and that’s a problem when being a middle linebacker on a team that has a lot of young guys coming up.  Perryman’s tackling in space is particularly problematic, as he had 15 missed tackles, the worst mark of his career.

All of that being said, Perryman can still play a role as a mentor to the younger linebackers while providing OK depth if someone gets hurt. Having him on the field for some run plays can’t hurt either. He probably won’t get more than 200-250 snaps or so, even if he is healthy.

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