San Diego Chargers: A Look into Their Linebacker Situation
The Chargers have a crowd of linebackers in their possession; which leaves a very compelling question:
What do they do with all these talented players?
Well, let's start off with one thing: Shaun Phillips at outside linebacker, and Takeo Spikes on the inside are a lock.
Not so much of a guarantee for the rest of them.
Outside: Travis LaBoy
Travis LaBoy, a free agent signing from the San Francisco 49ers is one of the favorites to hold down a spot in the OLB position.
He played in the Super Bowl when the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. Now that he's in San Diego, LaBoy states that "The Chargers have the same caliber offense, and their defense is better." This gives the Bolts some inspiration going into the 2011 season.
LaBoy may have not been in training camp for a while, but with some of the linebackers are dealing with bothersome injuries, he has gotten reps with the 1st team defense and looks to show that he deserves a lock in a rotational OLB spot opposite Phillips.
Outside: Larry English
Larry English, another linebacker in the OLB rotation and a former 2009 1st round draft pick, has a chance to prove that he is not a bust, rather he is a gem.
English has not been impressive in his first two seasons as an outside linebacker, having to deal with recurring injuries and not making any big plays.
The Chargers were hoping that he would be the answer to the OLB position after an injury of former OLB Shawne Merriman, who is now in Buffalo, that plagued the Chargers in the 2008 season. After two seasons, English has 53 tackles, 35 unassisted, 5.0 sacks, and one forced fumble and fumble recovery.
He hopes to double those numbers in 2011, but I have my doubts in him, sorry Larry.
Outside: Antwan Barnes
Not really a household name, but Barnes shined in 2010 in his first year in San Diego.
Barnes had 22 tackles, 17 unassisted, and 4.5 sacks; all are career bests in a season for Barnes. They aren't really superstar stats, but it gives the Chargers some hope and some meaningful depth at outside linebacker.
Barnes might get some playing time during the preseason to identify where he will land on the depth chart, but for now, the position looks rotational; everyone's going to get a chance.
Outside: Darryl Gamble
I know, I wrote an article in the past that gave encouragement on this kid, but he really does look like he has a chance to make the roster, it just depends on his performance in this preseason.
Darryl Gamble, a rookie out of University of Georgia, has had 10 tackles, 6 unassisted, and 1.0 sacks in two preseason games. Albeit he has been going up against 2nd team offenses, Gamble needs time going up against starters to really prove if he's cut out for the job.
Gamble should at least make the practice squad, in my opinion.
Inside: Donald Butler
Now we go to the inside linebacker spot and see who lines up with Takeo Spikes.
Donald Butler missed his rookie season with a season ending injury with a torn Achilles tendon, but looks to rebound and contribute to this dominant Chargers defense.
Butler has been a play caller for the Chargers this preseason. Knowing that, implies that Butler has been studying the playbook and put in time and effort to study each and every formation in the defense.
I'm hoping Greg Manusky can boost the youngster's skill and make him a permanent starter, I like him and it would make for a very good comeback story.
Inside: Jonas Mouton
Jonas Mouton, drafted 61st overall in the 2nd round, was a surprising pick by the Chargers, and he could be speculated as a possible 2nd string inside linebacker, but he is playing for something more: a chance to play next to a 14-year NFL veteran.
That's a compensatory combination.
Mouton has nine tackles, five unassisted, and one forced fumble this preseason. Unless he participates a little bit more this preseason, he can kiss his chance of starting this season goodbye.
Inside: Stephen Cooper
This story got me very puzzled.
Stephen Cooper, solid starter for the Bolts from 2007-2010, is now fighting for the spot that he considered he was going to keep for his whole career.
Cooper has recently suffered a torn bicep, yet he states that he is going to try and play without surgery.
I'll give Coop credit, he's got a lot of toughness to go out there and try to keep playing for his forsaken spot at inside linebacker, but it's going to be a hard struggle for him to go out there and make plays.
Now I wouldn't think the Chargers would wan't to get rid of Cooper if his nagging injury is a distraction, but if they do, I will be saddened to seem him go, he's done so much for this franchise.
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