May 14, 2013: San Diego Chargers Outside Linebacker Melvin Ingram tears ACL at practice.
On that same day, I panicked and wrote this:
I would imagine that, if the ACL is torn, there's no chance of Ingram returning to play this season.
Ummm, who is still available? Dwight Freeney? That could work, right? Maybe? Or I guess we could just root for Jadeveon Clowney AND Melvin Ingram in 2014.
Hey! Look who's a soothsayer.
So, back to square one.....right? We hope that Freeney can give the team what Ingram was expected to and we move on, yes? Well, maybe we should rewind a little bit and look at another timeline first.
Turning a dragon into a two-headed dragon
May 3, 2012: Ravens Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs tears Achilles tendon.
October 21, 2012: Suggs returns to the Ravens and starts in their 7th game of the 2012 season.
Let me start by saying that Suggs was not the biggest key to the Ravens winning the Super Bowl. He probably wasn't even the most important player on their defense in 2012, but his absence freed up snaps for Paul Kruger to rush the passer, which helped him to get a five-year deal worth $40 million from the Cleveland Browns this past offseason.
Once Suggs returned, the Ravens had two legitimate pass-rushing threats off of the edge that they could use to confuse offenses, disguise their gameplan or simply torture opposing Quarterbacks with. If Suggs doesn't get injured, Kruger is probably stuck playing the "versatile" role left open by the loss of Jarret Johnson and doesn't get to showcase his skills as a pass-rusher. Adding that versatility to the pass rush, turning a strength into an even bigger strength, certainly helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
Could the same thing happen in San Diego?
Certainly. When it comes to athletes and injuries, the ones that tend to heal quickly are also the ones that are often referred to as "freak athletes". Melvin Ingram has heard that phrase more than once during his years of playing just about every position on the field in college. Depending on the severity of his ACL tear, I wouldn't be all too surprised if he returned half-way through the 2013 season.
If Freeney could carve out a comfortable spot as the team's primary pass-rusher at the ROLB/RDE spot during the first half of the 2013 season, he could form a formidable tandem with Ingram playing the LOLB/LDE spot for the second half fo the year. I imagine opposing Offensive Coordinators would lose some sleep trying to think up ways to keep those two from getting to the Quarterback.
Maybe it's time to re-think Freeney
Maybe Dwight Freeney isn't simply a replacement. Maybe he was in San Diego's sights the whole time. Perhaps he could simply be thought of as the team's top pass-rusher, and someone who can team up with (and teach) Melvin Ingram once he returns from injury.
A strong pass-rush can make any bad team good. For all their lack of depth, Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy might be right about the 2013 San Diego Chargers: With a little injury luck, this could be a team that is rebuilding while also competing for a spot in the playoffs.