Positional Reviews

Positional Review: Outside Linebacker


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OLBs Signed through 2016: Six

Melvin Ingram: B

Midway through last season, it seemed like Ingram was never going to reach his full potential. Wracking up a whopping 1.5 sacks through the first seven games, Ingram was looking more like Larry English than Shawne Merriman.

Then, someone flipped the switch.

Ingram ended the season with 10.5 sacks, becoming the first Charger since Antwan Barnes in 2011 to reach double-digit sacks in a single season. His production last season was on par with Pro Bowlers such as Von Miller, Michael Bennett and Cameron Jordan.

While Ingram seems to have turned a corner, 2016 will be incredibly important for his future. With one season remaining on his contract (at $7.75 million), Ingram still has a number of questions to answer.

Can Ingram, who has missed 19 games through his four-year career, stay healthy? Can he match his 2015 production, when his previous sack total was four? And, perhaps most importantly, can a player charged with 16 penalties (and guilty of recently calling out San Diego fans on Twitter) become a smarter player?

The answers to these questions will likely determine if 2016 is Ingram’s last season with the team.

Jeremiah Attaochu: B-

After a rookie season mired in injury, where Attaochu only managed 10 tackles and two sacks, the former second-round pick took a solid step forward in 2015.

While his six sacks, 44 tackles and forced fumble weren’t eye-popping numbers, they were solid. Also, perhaps more importantly, he played in every game after the season opener, appearing on 67 percent of the defensive plays.

In addition to being San Diego’s best run-defending outside linebacker by far, Attaochu was also the only player on the roster to manage two full sacks in two different games last season — against the Browns and Packers in Weeks 4 and 6, respectively.

While his pass-rushing production fell off as Ingram’s increased (just two sacks after Week 6), at only 23 years old, Attaochu has plenty of time to continue developing.

Tourek Williams: C+

Third-year linebacker Tourek Williams was an early casualty of the preseason last year, breaking his foot in the opener against the Cowboys and missing the first eight games of the regular season before finally being placed on injured-reserve.

While he hasn’t developed into much of a pass rusher — with his only sack coming back in 2013 — the 2014 sixth-round pick looked really good setting the edge in training camp last season and could have definitely helped the Chargers’ poor run defense.

Williams should be plenty healthy come training camp, and depending on how the Bolts address the position in the offseason, could compete with Attaochu for playing time.

Still, as a free agent in 2017, Williams needs to show he can improve his past production of 31 tackles, one pass defensed, and one forced fumble in 28 games (six starts).

Kyle Emanuel: C

In training camp last year, rookie fifth-round pick Kyle Emanuel was taking everyone by storm. Getting extended practice time in place of Williams, Emanuel looked great rushing the passer, to the point that team captain Eric Weddle compared him to first-round talent.

Indeed, the storyline continued on through the first week of the regular season, where Emanuel has a huge game against the Lions, coming away with a sack, an interception and a critical QB hurry.

However, then Emanuel came crashing back to reality.

Emanuel did not get another sack the rest of the season, despite playing nearly 30 percent of the defensive snaps, and ended with 25 combined tackles and two tackles for a loss.

Emanuel has plenty of time to grow, and he was an incredibly productive pass rusher in college, racking up 32.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks during his senior year at North Dakota State.

Emanuel has the potential to develop into a good linebacker, but the Chargers can’t wait around for him to become more productive.

Brock Hekking: D+

Last training camp, undrafted rookie linebacker Brock Hekking displayed a high motor, decent speed, impressive strength and a knack for generating pressure for the third-team defense.

Hekking, sporting his signature mullet, was also very productive at Nevada, ending his college career with 22.5 sacks.

Unfortunately, before Hekking could really compete for a roster spot in San Diego, he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

While he has potential, Hekking may end up being more hair than production.

Cordarro Law: F+

In an attempt to find the next Cameron Wake, Telesco took a flier on CFL standout Cordarro Law, who had 14 sacks in 2013 with the Calgary Stampeders. However, it hasn’t worked out nearly as well for the Bolts as it did for the ‘Fins.

In 17 games over the past two years, Law has managed all of one sack and 21 combined tackles. While he did only play on about eight percent of the defensive snaps last season, he never seemed like he was in danger of actually making an impact.

An exclusive rights free agent this season, Law will likely be back for training camp, and at only 27 years old, perhaps he has some unlocked potential somewhere.

But it’s doubtful.

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About Trenton Villanueva

A San Diego native, Trenton Villanueva graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in the hydraulic principles of the keg. Prior to writing for SDBR, he covered sports news for FanSided and wrote music reviews for the San Diego State Daily Aztec.

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