Perhaps the idea that Melvin Ingram needs to be replaced in terms of realized on-field production is a bit misleading given that he had just one sack as a rookie last season, but the expectations for him heading into 2013 were certainly enormous.
After letting veteran pass rusher Shaun Phillips walk during free agency, the San Diego Chargers were left scrambling when Ingram suffered a torn ACL on just the second day of minicamp back in May. Thankfully the team still had some options available on the free agent market, and one of the players the team has the most confidence in may surprise you.
Dwight Freeney was the big-name acquisition following Ingram’s untimely injury, but questions still surround his ability to truly fit into the San Diego defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator John Pagano has no worries about using hybrid looks to tailor his scheme to fit Freeney’s strengths, but perhaps a lesser known player will steal some of that thunder.
24 year-old Thomas Keiser was let go by the Carolina Panthers in mid-May which perfectly coincided with Ingram’s injury. San Diego was quick to make him a member of their squad, and his performance thus far in training camp has impressed the team. Keiser is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds so his build is ideal for the multiple looks that Pagano promises to use in the upcoming campaign.
Of how he will fit into just what the Bolts do defensively, Keiser told U-T San Diego:
“It seems like everything in my career over the past four or five years has prepared me to have success in this situation in San Diego as far as the defense and my role and position go. I look back at my Stanford time, and I was missing a step. There was too much thinking. I went to the NFL, played a lot of defensive end, really developed my skills there dramatically and started dipping back to outside linebacker. Now I’m here, understanding the system, and everything is just react-and-go instead of, ‘All right, this is what I have to do. Ah, what about this?’ Now it’s just run around as fast as you can and play and do the right thing.”
While Jarret Johnson and the ever underachieving Larry English remain in the outside linebacker rotation, these two are pretty much known commodities at this point. Johnson is entering his 11th NFL season and has just 21.5 career sacks to this point while English is heading into his fifth year with a meager 8.5 to his name to date. These two will be key rotational players, but if the Bolts are banking on transformations from these guys in 2013, it’s going to be a long season on defense.
Freeney’s athleticism will still be productive in San Diego, but Keiser’s upside potential certainly bears watching. The Chargers will need to see some of that untapped talent come together out on the field this season if they hope to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks when the regular season arrives.