Chargers Position Rankings Vs AFC West: Volume 4 – Linebackers
The AFC West has one of the weakest linebacker groups in the NFL. Interestingly, the teams with the best linebackers are the ones with the best pass rushers. The Chargers are noticeably weak at linebacker yet they feature two of the game’s fiercest pass rushers in defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Let’s explore this unique group of linebackers.
4. Oakland Raiders
WLB – Tahir Whitehead – 6’2” 241 lbs
MLB – Vontaze Burfict – 6’1” 255 lbs
SLB – Brandon Marshall – 6’1” 250 lbs
In his first year in Oakland, Tahir Whitehead recorded 88 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception. Unfortunately, he did not record a single sack. Since entering the league in 2012 he has only recorded three sacks.
At times, Burfict was a force in Cincinnati and was invited to the Pro Bowl following the 2013 season. He only played in seven games last year and recorded just 16 tackles.
Brandon Marshall joins the Raiders defense after six seasons in Denver. He recorded 42 tackles in an injury-riddled 2018 campaign. His best season was 2014 when he recorded a career-high 113 tackles, two sacks, and one interception.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
WLB – Anthony Hitchens – 6’0” 235 lbs
MLB – Reggie Ragland – 6’2” 252 lbs
SLB – Damien Wilson – 6’0” 245 lbs
Anthony Hitchens is coming off a career year. He had a career-high 135 tackles in 2018 with 81 of those being by himself. His only flaw is his lack of turnovers. He only has three forced fumbles and one interception since entering the NFL in 2014.
Ragland came into his own in 2018 and recorded a career-high 86 tackles. Entering his third year, he has half a sack and one forced fumble. His career trajectory seems to be going up but he may have peaked last season. He will have to prove himself this year in order to build upon his accomplishments last season.
Wilson has played sparingly since being drafted by Dallas in 2015. He recorded 37 tackles and one sack last season. It should be interesting to see how he develops as a starter.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
WLB – Thomas Davis – 6’1” 235 lbs
MLB – Denzel Perryman – 5’11” 240 lbs
SLB – Uchenna Nwosu – 6’2” 251 lbs
Thomas Davis was one of the biggest additions to the Chargers defense this offseason. The 36-year-old has made a name for himself as one of the toughest players in the NFL. He once played in the Super Bowl with a broken arm. He has been invited to three Pro Bowls and recorded 79 tackles last season in an injury-plagued campaign. Due to his advanced age, he will provide more leadership than athletic ability to the defense.
Perryman is not as durable as one would hope a middle linebacker would be. He has never played a full season and has seen the past two years cut in half due to injury. He played in just nine games last year and recorded 51 tackles. The potential is there but his body keeps failing him and his team.
Nwosu had 27 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his rookie season. He also deflected a pass while showcasing his skills in a limited capacity. With the high volume of sacks he recorded in limited action, he may be the Chargers secret weapon on defense.
1. Denver Broncos
LOLB – Bradley Chubb – 6’4” 269 lbs
LILB – Josey Jewell – 6’1” 236 lbs
RILB – Todd Davis – 6’1” 230 lbs
ROLB – Von Miller – 6’3” 250 lbs
Bradley Chubb played well in his rookie year by recording 12 sacks and 60 tackles. The future looks bright for the young pass rusher.
Jewell started nine games in his rookie year of 2018. He recorded 58 tackles and three pass deflections.
Davis started all 16 games last year and recorded a career-high 114 tackles. He also recorded his first career interception and returned it for a touchdown.
Von Miller is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. He recorded 14.5 sacks and a mere 48 tackles last year. His best season was 2012 when he recorded an astounding 18.5 sacks. As of this writing he is one of the few bright spots for the Broncos organization. They need his leadership now more than ever as they desperately search for a franchise quarterback and try to revive a franchise which has been dying since winning Super Bowl 50.
The AFC West employs some of the most talented outside linebackers in the NFL and the Denver Broncos has a surplus at that position. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are the perfect blend of youth and experience and with more talent surrounding them; they could really inflict damage on opposing offenses. The rest of the division is relatively weak but does have promising players such as Reggie Ragland and Denzel Perryman. The Chargers did not do much in the offseason to strengthen a weak linebacker unit. While Thomas Davis is good, he lacks the athleticism to truly make an impact on the Chargers defense. Pass rush is key in a division top heavy on the edge. Ironically, the team with the least potential to make the playoffs has the best linebacker unit in one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions.