Player Spotlights

Nick Dzubnar Seeks to Snag Substantial Role

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“The Purge” is not just a series of horror movies … it is also a description of how GM Tom Telesco handled the inside linebacker position this offseason. Gone are Donald Butler, Kavell Conner, Joe Mays and Chi Chi Ariguzo.

While the Chargers are set at the starting positions with Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o, the task of providing depth now falls on the untested hands of second-year Cal Poly Luis Obispo product Nick Dzubnar.

Dzubnar and versatile CFL product Dexter McCoil are the only backup middle linebackers on the roster. That’s concerning, especially given that Te’o and Perryman combined to miss six games last season.

When the boat starts taking on water, is Dzubnar the player the Chargers want plugging the holes?

Dzubnar was one of the San Diego most impressive defenders last preseason. In four appearances, the undrafted rookie lead the team with 25 combined tackles and two sacks, playing his way onto the 53-man roster.

Dzubnar’s preseason play echoed his extraordinary production at Cal Poly, where he posted an amazing 414 total tackles in 46 career games. He also added seven forced fumbles, five interceptions and five sacks to his résumé with the Mustangs.

Dzubnar is a physical specimen. At 6’1″ and 240 lbs., the California native is not the biggest linebacker, but his Pro Day numbers (4.67 40-yard dash, 29 bench-press reps, 6.67 3-cone drill) would have made him one of the top linebackers at this year’s NFL Combine.

What the young linebacker has in potential, he lacks in actual NFL experience.

While he appeared in all 16 games last season, he was primarily a special teamer, and only played 16 defensive snaps, according to Football Outsiders. Even when the health at middle linebacker was at its most dire, the Bolts opted to sign Mays as a stop-gap rather then play Dzubnar.

Still, Dzubnar ended the season with 15 tackles, 13 of which were unassisted. He was also given a 64.8 grade by Pro Football Focus — higher than Te’o or Butler — despite his minuscule sample size.

The Chargers will add additional depth to the middle linebacker position prior to training camp, and will likely do so in Chicago next week, as Tom Telesco has spent second-round picks on inside linebackers in two of his first three drafts.

However, the fact that the Bolts have gone this long without addressing middle linebacker depth speaks volumes about how comfortable San Diego is with Dzubnar’s development.

Dzubnar may not (yet) be lock to make the roster, but has a golden opportunity to seize a more substantial role in the middle of the defense.

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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