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Losing Denzel Perryman could be more than just another ‘next man up’ situation

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody wants to see players become injured in the NFL, but it is a part of the game. A quick slant could lead to a ruptured Achilles while improper tackling techniques could end up costing a player their season with a torn Anterior cruciate ligament. Most people know that injury better as a torn ACL.

The fact is, though, injuries are apart of football. It’s next man up and next opportunity for a young player to make their mark as a potential superstar. That doesn’t always happen, however. More often than not, it shows general managers and scouts what little depth they might have a position outside their starter.

That could be the case this coming week with the latest news coming out of the Chargers locker room.

During the Chargers 20-6 victory over AFC West rival Oakland Raiders, linebacker Denzel Perryman exited following the team’s second play of the game. Having gotten his cleats stuck in the turf, it is believed that Perryman hyperextended his knee during the play according to Dr. David J. Chao. Perryman was able to stand and be helped off the field by trainers but would later have to be carted off and would not return to the game.

Let’s start with the negative; being carted off is always a terrible sign. Granted, while the fourth-year linebacker was able to leave the field with the help of others, this is a similar situation that the Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller went through earlier this season.

Fuller left the field following a pass interference call in the end zone against Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain. While he was able to leave the field under his own power, Fuller headed back into the locker room where doctors feared the worst. A day later, the MRI proved that the third-year receiver suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the season.

Perryman will undergo an MRI Monday morning to decipher the injury better. The best case scenario is that Perryman will time some time with a bone bruise. The worst case is a torn ACL and season-ending injury for the veteran linebacker.

Perhaps the one positive to take away the Perryman news is the update that we received during the middle of the game. The linebacker did not take another snap, but he would be seen on the sideline, still in pads, ready to be called on if the team needed him. They didn’t but the fact his pads were still on could be a sigh of relief from the Chargers fan base moving forward.

Bottom line, Perryman is likely heading back to the sideline and will miss some time no matter the outcome of the MRI. While everyone can hope it’s minimal and the team could survive a game or two without their signal caller up the middle, that’s an unlikely case when there is news of an MRI machine becoming involved.

The Chargers will likely elect to move outside linebacker Jatavis Brown inside to command the middle of the field moving forward. Perhaps that could be a good sign for the short-term. In Sunday’s victory, Brown led the Chargers in tackles with 11 total tackles. He seemed to be decent in coverage and looked promising against the run up the middle.

The problem is that’s a short-term solution. Brown has been inconsistent since the preseason for the Bolts defense and seems to be playing the more Jekyll and Hyde role than instead of even a consistent average linebacker.

With little depth at the linebacker position, the Chargers are likely stuck playing Brown moving forward no matter how he pans out for the remainder of the season. Sure, perhaps a move inside might make the third-year linebacker a more consistent player for the Bolts defense, but that’s not going to fix all their problems.

A long-term Perryman loss would be another crucial blow to the Chargers defense. While officially not ruled out for the season, third-year defensive end Joey Bosa still has yet to be cleared to return to live action. It’s week 11 now, meaning he’ll need to be active within 21 days or risk missing a chance at the postseason.

Two key defensive players put the Chargers in a predicament they can’t quickly fix. Should Perryman be placed on the season-ending injured reserved list, Chargers general manager could try to find a way to sign a veteran linebacker off the free agent market.

Outside of former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, no one really should be considered a better option than Brown. Even the 35-year-old Johnson might not be a better option, just a safety net player.

They say it’s next man up in the game of football. Hopefully, for Brown, he can live up to that hype and figure out a way to replace the production Perryman has displayed in limited action this season.

However, this also should be a sign of the former Hurricane linebacker’s future with the organization. Since being drafted in 2015, Perryman has dealt with some type of injury and has yet to play a full season with the defense. Injuries can make or break a player’s contract, and if Perryman’s latest injury scare is as severe as advertised, this could be the end of his era for the Bolts defense.

Nothing will be set in stone until the results for the MRI come back later Monday afternoon. Everything could be cleared up, and Perryman could be on the sideline next week preparing to face off against the Denver Broncos. However, more likely than not, Telesco should begin his scouting. Not just at the free agent class, but also at the next crop of young linebackers about to enter the NFL.

The Chargers offense is thriving and should remain that way for years to come. The defense has been the Achilles heel this season due to injuries on expiring contracts and could be fixed through free agency and the draft. The defensive line seems to be the apparent choice of immediate need moving forward but should Telesco be comfortable waiting til day 2 of the NFL Draft, expect a linebacker to be on the short list of day first-round players when the Chargers are on the clock.

Like they say, next man up.