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It's time for the Chargers to make a change at Linebacker

Kyle Posey breaks down the film to make the case it's time for the Chargers to make a change at linebacker.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of bad defensive play on the field last Sunday at the Q. The Chargers made Josh McCown look like one of the best QBs in the conference at times. The defense surrendered 6.5 yards per play and gave up 18 1st downs, and missed 14 tackles. Against an offense without a true "threat", these kinds of performances just can't happen.

Controlling the Line of Scrimmage

On a positive note, the Browns only converted 4 of their 13 3rd downs, finally found a way to get after the QB, and for the 1st time this year, won up up front.

Player Tackle Missed Win Stop TFL QB Hit Sack
Reyes 2.5 3 2.5 1 1
Liuget 2.5 2 0.5 0.5
Mathews 1 2 1
Philon 2 1
Ingram 3.5 2 5 1 1 1 1.5
Attaochu 2 3 2 2
Emanuel 1 1 1 1

When I do this, I'm looking for guys that are going to fill up the last 5 columns. Not everything can be quantified. For example Ryan Carrethers fighting down the line of scrimmage on a 3rd-quarter run to help blow up a run play can't go down as a stat, but it's certainly noticed.

Still, it comes down to wins. Are you beating your man and creating an impact on the play? A win is exactly that in this box score. For the second week in a row, Kendall Reyes was making plays. With the early disappointing play in Ricardo Mathews, this is a big deal. Reyes is playing with the energy level of Jerry Attaochu and it's showing as of late.

It doesn't take long to realize who played the best up front after looking at the table above. As frustrating as Melvin Ingram can be, it's games like this where you can really see the all-around impact he can have on a game. The sack early on where he just runs right by the tight end.

It's the plays like below where he makes the Tight End look stupid off the snap, then blows up the fullback in the backfield, allowing the rest of the defense to clean it up.

This is why Ingram is so frustrating. Because these are the plays he makes. His "wins" are a thing of beauty. He still is a sloppy tackler, is still behind when it comes being a nuanced pass rusher, and is a liability in coverage. But man, he's a hell of an athlete playing football and more often than not that's good enough.

It's time for a change

The front 7 isn't why I wanted to write this. It's the pair of defenders at the 2nd level that have been, and are still, costing this team. There is so much wrong with this table below:

Player Tackle Missed Win Stop TFL
Te'o 9 5 3 4 1.5
Butler 1.5 1 2 1
Perryman 2.5 2

This is Manti Te'o and Donald Butler in a nutshell. We are 4 games into the season and Te'o has missed seventeen tackles by my count. 17. Saying at least he's in the right position is like saying a receiver ran a good route even though he dropped it. The job of a linebacker is to take the ball carrier to the ground. 1 or 2 missed tackles here and there is normal, but Te'o is missing tackles at an alarming rate.

As for Butler, he's back to his indecisive ways. The plays he should be making that he isn't are the same ones I see 16-year-olds make every day.

Lets start with a simple "split zone" play. All of the offensive lineman will block down and the FB comes across the formation to kick out Ingram.


Once Ingram takes his 2 steps forward, he should read the FB at the bottom of the screen coming across the formation and meet the RB in the backfield for an easy tackle for loss.


Instead.....Butler stops his feet and chooses to work backwards to meet the RB 6 yards down the field instead of 2 yards in the backfield.

The very next play the Browns run outside zone and Butler meets the LG before he can get going and frees up Te'o to make a stop for a gain of 1.

Then there are these plays. Where you wonder what the heck is going through Butler's head. The Browns are running inside zone out of shotgun. As soon as Butler sees the TE to his side block down, he should know it's a run play.


Butler honors the fake for Josh McCown? Because of all the mobile QBs that are going to give the Chargers problems, it's McCown. If this play was an option, the edge defender to the bottom of the screen, Ingram, would be unblocked and the TE would come get Butler.


The ball is clearly handed off and it takes Butler a full second to react. He should be aggressively coming downhill and replacing the TE as he blocks down against Ingram. He's not only caught in no man's land, but he's not giving himself a chance to make plays by playing passive instead of just playing football. This happened a couple times in the 2nd half to Butler.

Final example on Butler: what teams are going to continue to do is just run to the weakside and make Te'o take on blocks. That's a double no-no considering the way Butler refuses to come downhill. Below is an inside zone to the weakside of the formation.


The ball was snapped around 13:23 and 2 seconds later, Butler is in the exact same position from a depth standpoint.


If Butler comes downhill, he's on the 39 with momentum and in a position to make a play. Instead he's walled off by the blocker and the defense might as well have 10 guys out there. These are the plays that are killing the defense when it comes to stopping the run.

Denzel Perryman has to be the answer. As the table shows, he missed 2 tackles himself. Not a great endorsement. However he did make more tackles than Butler did in 33 fewer snaps. But who does he replace?

On one hand you have a linebacker who is reading the plays very well but isn't finishing. On the other hand you have a linebacker who is playing tentative and is second guessing what he sees. As sloppy as Te'o's tackling has been, you just can't expect Perryman to be able to run and diagnose the same type of plays.

In the first series Perryman played, which was in the middle of the 2nd quarter, the Browns went 3 and out. Here's a look at one of his "missed tackles."

The aggressive mentality is there, I just want to see Perryman finish the play. His "highlight" was less of a highlight and more of a "oh hey that's how an NFL LB should actually tackle" play.

Perryman is going to have to learn how to get off blocks and come downhill aggressively while still playing under control. I can see why fans would be excited because when Perryman does hit you, you're going backwards.

Not to make this a "Butler sucks" theme but this next play shows Perryman is actually aware of his surroundings. I'm not sure 56 recognizes this and breaks on the pass. The Browns run off the two inside receivers and bring the outside WR underneath on a quick slant. Perryman does a good job of reading and reacting for a minimal gain.

This is a good play. I'll be interested to see how Perryman develops and how his snap counts steadily grow as the season goes on.

My final beef with why there needs to be a change. Both of the Chargers inside linebackers have no clue how to blitz. When you blitz you don't look for contact. The object is to avoid contact, beat the RB and sack the QB.

As soon as the RB stops his feet, Te'o should side swipe him and give the RB a little rip move and should win. Instead he initiates contact awkwardly and gets embarrassed.

I'm not saying Perryman will be the answer. I do know that there is a different mentality to his game and that the defense can use his type of aggression. With the way the next opponent the Chargers can face can run the ball, they'll need all the downhill, sure-tackling they can get.