The LA Chargers have a new-look linebacker unit in 2020.
The LA Chargers have undergone a few changes this offseason with the biggest being the change under center from Philip Rivers to — most likely — Tyrod Taylor for a season before turning the offense over to Justin Herbert.
That is not the only area that looks new from a season ago, though, as the linebacker unit is arguably the second-most changed aspect of the Chargers’ roster.
The Bolts released veteran linebacker Thomas Davis after just one season of a two-year deal and brought in some external help in both free agency and the draft. LA traded back into the first round to draft a hard-nosed inside linebacker in Kenneth Murray and signed former Bengal Nick Vigil.
Fans are expecting Drue Tranquill to take another step in his production after a solid rookie season and we could see less of Denzel Perryman with the addition of Murray. The linebacker unit definitely is the most volatile group on the Bolts’ defense, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
But how does the group compare to the rest of the league? Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 linebacker units heading into the 2020 season and the Bolts were not ranked too highly.
Pro Football Focus ranks the LA Chargers’ linebackers 18th in the league
The Chargers’ linebacker unit is viewed as slightly below the league median in the eyes of Pro Football Focus and while that might seem low right now, that really is not that bad and there is a lot of room for improvement.
If the worst part of the Chargers’ defense is still right around league average then that just shows how good the defense is going to be. Plus, this ranking is based on the performances from a year ago.
If the linebackers progress in a positive way in 2020 (which is not a guarantee in the slightest), then the Chargers could easily creep into the 10-13 range in terms of their ranking.
There are multiple x-factors that are going to determine if the Chargers’ linebackers exceed expectations. First is whether or not Kenneth Murray has a truly impactful rookie season. If he proves that he can be a positive impact on the run-defense and then shows improvements in pass-coverage then that already is a huge bump.
He suddenly becomes someone that would be used in running downs to an every-down linebacker.
If Tranquill takes the step forward that is expected of him by Charger fans in 2020 then the Bolts will have a really good starting duo of Murray of Tranquill. The team could then put guys like Denzel Perryman, Kyzir White and Nick Vigil solely in positions to succeed, which will maximize the output.
Of course, things could always go the other way as well. The Chargers are deeper than previous years at the position but all it takes is a few injuries or Murray to struggle in his rookie season (which also is possible) for the Bolts’ linebackers to slip into the 20s.
What do you think of Pro Football Focus’ linebacker rankings and where the LA Chargers stand? Let us know in the comments down below.