The LA Chargers have put resources into rebuilding the defensive side of the ball under Brandon Staley since 2021. The result has been a more talented group overall than was present three years ago but the defense is still far from perfect.
Arguably the worst position on the defensive side of the ball for the Chargers is at linebacker. Not only is this a weak position in comparison for the Bolts but it is also a polarizing topic among Chargers fans. LA has made some interesting decisions when it comes to the linebacker core.
There is hope that the Chargers' linebackers can exceed expectations but when stacked up against the rest of the league, it is clear that it is going to be an uphill battle. Just so fans can get an idea, the Chargers ranked 21st in PFF's most recent linebacker rankings, with Dalton Wasserman penning the following:
"The Chargers' infamously poor run defense was front and center again in 2022. Their linebackers were a primary culprit, collectively posting a 34.4 run-defense grade that ranked 31st in the NFL. Their 79.9 coverage grade ranked fifth, but the struggles up front were too much for them to overcome.
What the Chargers really need is a breakout from Kenneth Murray. Murray has yet to grade above 55.0 in his career, and his 28.2 run-defense grade last season was tied for the worst mark in the NFL. Further struggles this season could open the door for third-round rookie Daiyan Henley to swipe some starting reps."
The reality around the Chargers linebackers is concerning
Chargers fans might be sick of hearing about it but letting Drue Tranquill sign with the Kansas City Chiefs for only $3 million (plus incentives) continues to be a mind-boggling decision. For comparison's sake, the Chiefs checked in as the sixth-ranked linebackers core with Tranquill being a prominent figure in the room.
The team did replace Tranquill with Eric Kendricks and while Brandon Staley seemed to be hyped for the addition, others throughout the league were more critical of the move. There definitely is a world in which this move doesn't work out.
The Chargers could be sacrificing a lot in coverage with Kendricks on the defense and while he has been great in the past, there is no guarantee that he sustains that level of production at his age. There is hope that he can be really good but the Bolts may have gotten worse both in run defense and pass defense.
And then you have the problem that is Kenneth Murray. Murray has not shown any signs of coming along as an NFL player and at this point it might be too late. Maybe Murray can work out elsewhere but Chargers fans shouldn't expect much in 2023.
That leaves rookie Daiyan Henley to be the potential glue that holds this all together and that is a lot to ask of for a rookie. If he does not step in and instantly make an impact then we could be looking at the worse linebackers group of Staley's tenure thus far.
Linebacker is the least important position on defense and Staley historically does not value it as much and it is obvious. Hopefully, it does not come back to burn the Chargers.