There have been new additions and subtractions to the Chargers’ defense for 2021. Here some of my predictions and the Camp Battles you should keep an eye on.
The Chargers have some new life on the defense but have also seen some very familiar faces depart this off-season. After spending six seasons with the Chargers, Denzel Perryman moved on to join the Carolina Panthers. Though injuries always limited Perryman, his moving on opens up about a 40% snap share, as well as a new role for another linebacker.
The linebacker corps for the Chargers has been crowded for years, so it is one of the Chargers’ camp battles I will be watching. After nine seasons as a regular starter with the Chargers, Melvin Ingram remains an unsigned free agent. Since 2016, Ingram has been the running mate of superstar Joey Bosa. This year will be the first time in Bosa’s career, except while Ingram was injured, that he has a new running mate.
Who wins the defensive end spot?
Let’s check out the Chargers’ Camp Battles.
Chargers’ Camp Battles
The frustration that is the Chargers LB corps
The Chargers’ linebacker corps has been one of the most frustrating groups to predict in fantasy football. In 2019 the linebacker group was a chaotic mess to figure out on a week-to-week basis. Their lead linebacker was Thomas Davis who played on 82.82% of defensive snaps.
After Davis, there was a trio of linebackers who split duty at the position. Drue Tranquil (39.09%), Denzel Perryman (36.83%), and Kyzir White (38.27%) all played over 30% — but less than 40% — of the team’s snaps, and all flashed at times.
In 2020, The Chargers finally allowed IDP fantasy managers to breathe a sigh of relief when trying to figure out this situation. The Chargers drafted Kenneth Murray in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and showed that they were ready to have a dominant linebacker. Murray ended up playing on 92.48% of the team’s defensive snaps and was paired with Kyzir White, at least for the nine games of the season.
During those nine games, White played on 79.11% of the team’s snaps. However, he went on the Covid-19 list before Week 10. That’s when the linebacker scramble happened again in L.A.
Kenneth Murray will have an every-down role in 2021, that is for sure. In even better news, Murray may see his IDP value spike in 2021. Coach Brandon Staley, who was the defensive coordinator of the elite Rams defense in 2020, has plans to use Murray differently. In college, one of Murray’s best traits was his ability to rush the passer, and Coach Staley said recently that he plans to blitz more with Murray.
This is great news, as he now not only has a high-volume tackle role but also the ability to be more of a playmaker for the defense. You can see his blitz prowess at about the 40-second mark in this clip:
— NFL (@NFL) April 8, 2021
Murray will be a beast in 2021, believe that. Surprisingly, though, he is still dropping into late LB1/LB2 status. In a start-up, I am reaching for him everywhere.
The real camp battle is between Drue Tranquil and Kyzir White. Tranquil was a rookie in 2019 and played great to finish the season. He made 75 tackles while only playing on 39% of the team’s defensive snaps. Tranquil was headed to a starting role in 2020, but he suffered a broken fibula and missed all but one game. White played admirably in the wake of Tranquil’s injury, and now here we are again stuck in the Chargers’ linebacker conundrum.
White had 77 tackles with Tranquil on the shelf. The Chargers will now have camp to see if one of these two can separate himself from the other. White is a former safety and is very athletic and good in coverage, and Tranquil is a tackle monster, though also quite athletic. The best choice may be to rotate the two in and out, but we need to see how camp plays out.
Chargers Camp LB Battle Prediction
The earliest reports were that Tranquil was getting first-team reps next to Murray. Tranquil is likely the candidate to play the most snaps next to Murray, though that still may not garner a three-down role. Tranquil will start, though he will be on a short leash with White lurking close behind.
Changing of The Guard
The Chargers have had superstars Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram manning the edge positions since 2016. The two of them combined have been on the field for 88.08% of the team’s defensive snaps, as long as they were both were healthy. Needless to say, the team has not had to worry about the edge position for quite some time now. Looking forward to 2021, the defensive line is going to look quite different.
Ingram is 32 going into this season but is no longer with the Chargers — they allowed him to venture off in free agency. In 2020, Ingram was relegated to just seven games due to injury. Over those seven games, he did not register a single sack or tackle for a loss. Uchenna Nwosu (34.33%) and Isaac Rochell (42.14%) split the duties while Ingram was out. Nwosu is the better in run defense while Rochell was the better pass rusher.
The Chargers took it upon themselves to add to the edge position this off-season, making it apparent that Ingram will not be back. They added Kyler Fackrell, formerly of the Packers and the Giants, in free agency. He had a career-high in sacks with 10.5 in 2018, though has not been able to hold down a starting role. He has been able to show an ability to peel off and drop in coverage some, which may help his case to play more in this system as you can see here:
Kyler Fackrell takes the tipped pass to the house 🏠 #TogetherBlue
— NFL (@NFL) October 11, 2020
He is more or less a pass-rushing specialist and is no spring chicken — he turns 30 mid-season.
The Chargers also added Chris Rumph II (rookie rank #25) out of Duke in the fourth round of the 2021 draft. Rumph is slightly undersized as defensive end, though his collegiate production says otherwise. There have been rumblings of the coaching stuff playing Rumph as an off-ball linebacker. Obviously, nothing has been put into fruition though.
Nwosu set career highs in 2020 in tackles (33), tackles for a loss (5), sacks (4.5), passes defended (2), and QB hits (11). He will be the incumbent in L.A., though the new coaching staff may change the way the defense plays.
Chargers Camp Edge Defender Battle Prediction
With Coach Staley taking over, the position is taking a bit of a change, and the Chargers may be taking more of a traditional 3-4 look. Word on the street is that the coaching staff is going to have Bosa drop in coverage more, much like the way Leonard Floyd did with the Rams last season. The way I see this playing out is that Nwosu will get the start, playing base downs, mainly due to his ability in run defense.
After this, it will likely be Fackrell or Rumph battling for obvious passing down work. With Fackrell’s experience in a similar system, as well as overall in the NFL, I believe that he will be the main beneficiary. At least he will for the 2021 season with Rumph taking a year or two to get his feet under him.
The Chargers defense will take on a new look this year under Coach Staley. Last year with the Rams, Staley ran one of the best defenses in the NFL. He has great personnel with the Chargers to repeat in 2021. Kenneth Murray is a player who will have a monster year, especially with the added blitz attempts. Other than Murray, I think it will be Drue Tranquil getting the first crack at starting with Kyzir White nipping at his heels.
On the edge, Uchenna Nwosu probably starts opposite of Joey Bosa, though will likely play mostly on early downs with Kyler Fackrell expected to take a pass rushing specialist role. Chris Rumph will have to wait a year or prove himself in camp to see more of the field.
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