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2019 Chargers UDFA Profile: Pitt LB Elijah Zeise

Pittsburgh v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

When the linebacker group started shaping up as one of the weaker positions on the team, the Chargers went to work on increasing the depth and versatility of the players in that room once the offseason arrived. One of their few signings during the early parts of free agency was the addition of 15-year veteran Thomas Davis, who is also the lone defensive player left from the 2005 NFL Draft.

During this year’s draft, the Chargers selected a pair of linebackers on Day 3 in Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquil and Houston’s Emeke Egbule. Then, when it came to the undrafted free agent frenzy, the Bolts jumped on another handful of defenders at the position.

For this profile, we will be focusing on former Pitt Panther Elijah Zeise, who has an background for a multi-year starter on the Pitt defense.

While in high-school, Zeise was a two-impact player as a wide receiver and cornerback. He was initially recruited to Pitt as a wideout and following his redshirt year in 2014, he was a reserve pass-catcher in 2015.

Prior to the 2016 season, Zeise transitioned to the defensive side of the ball and wound up being the team’s starting “Star” linebacker for their very first game. The “Star” backer in the Panthers’ defense is usually aligned to the field side and has to have some serious pass coverage chops. Unfortunately for Zeise, that was his only game of the year as he sustained a serious lower-body injury that kept him out for the remainder of the year.

Zeise worked feverishly to come back stronger and better than ever and it showed when he earned the starting job as the team’s “Money” linebacker prior to the 2017 campaign. The team’s “Money” backer is usually aligned to the boundary side of the field and must be one of the most physical players on the team.

Zeise finished his first year as a full-time starter with 49 total tackles, five tackles-for-loss, and three pass breakups.

In 14 games (12 starts), Zeise held it down at the “Money” linebacker spot once again and posted similar numbers from the year prior. He ended with 48 total tackles, four tackles-for-loss, one sack, two pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

I think Zeise is going to have one of, if not, the most difficult paths to making the final 53-man roster. There’s just not much that stands out from his career production or athleticism that would give him a leg-up on any of the other players at his position. Besides some special teams value, I’m not sure there is much that Zeise can offer the team. At this moment, he’s likely nothing more than a camp body.