Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Training Camp Scouting Report: Ryan Mueller

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LB Ryan Mueller. Photo by Shana Siler,

With the last open practice in the books and the first round of roster cuts looming large, the 90 players currently in camp with the Chargers have only a few weeks left to make an impression on not just San Diego's coaches, but coaches for the other 31 teams, too.

Many of these players will never see time on a 53-man roster, but one player who has shown the versatility and consistency to make a decent run at it is undrafted rookie linebacker Ryan Mueller.

While not the strongest linebacker on the team, Mueller -- who racked up 20.5 sacks as a defensive end at Kansas State -- generates pressure with a combination of quickness off the snap and constant hustle.

Since the beginning of camp, the former Wildcat has consistently flashed this potential in pass-rushing drills. On Tuesday, Mueller proved to be too much for tackle-turned-guard D.J. Fluker to handle, forcing the 339-pound offensive lineman into the ground.

And this isn't even the first time Mueller has made a play against one of the Chargers' starting linemen. Earlier in camp, the outside linebacker used a nice spin move to create pressure against starting left tackle King Dunlap, who is no slouch in pass protection.

The same relentlessness Mueller has shown in drills has largely translated into his play in 11-on-11s. Working primarily with the third-team defense, Mueller has consistently created pressure against rookie OT Forrestal Hickman, as well as veteran backup Chris Hairston.

That's not to say Mueller generates pressure on every snap, but his quickness definitely causes problems for linemen in one-one-one situations. There is a reason Mueller was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2013 after tying the Kansas State record for sacks with 11.5.

What is surprising Mueller's versatility. The rookie is proving to be more than a one-trick pony through his impact on special teams. The same quickness off the snap Mueller has shown during pass-rushing drills is also apparent rushing the punter. Mueller has also looked good in punt coverage. During Tuesday's practice, Mueller was in great position on a punt return to force Keenan Allen out of bounds.

Where Mueller has struggled at times is in pass coverage. Out of college, one knock against Mueller's game is that he may not be athletic enough in space to make it as a 3-4 outside linebacker. While Mueller has looked plenty athletic, he has struggled in coverage during both individual drills and team activities.

Working against tight ends one-on-one earlier in camp, Mueller was easily beat by tight end Brian Parker, who didn't end up catching the ball, but was in no way impeded by Mueller. Also, during this year's Fan Fest, Mueller allowed an easy sideline catch by first-year wide receiver Torrence Allen.

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Still, many of the other young outside linebackers have also struggled in coverage in camp, so it is unlikely this will hinder Mueller's chances of making the team.

In fact, with third-year linebacker Tourek Williams out indefinitely with a broken foot, the Bolts will be looking for depth at outside linebacker to complement Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu and rookie fifth-round pick Kyle Emanuel. The answer could be Mueller.

Through training camp, Mueller has shown more consistency and potential upside than young linebackers Colton Underwood and Brock Hekking, respectively, and is probably on par with Cordarro Law at this point.

With his potential as a pass rusher, along with his contributions on special teams, Mueller has a chance to sneak onto the 53-man roster, if only until Williams returns from injury.

What kind of impact will Ryan Mueller make this year? Talk about it in our message boards!

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. Follow him on Twitter @TrentNotDilfer

Ryan Mueller
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