A unique position among the Chargers’ defense is the LEO spot, which is a staple for any defense being coached by Gus Bradley. The defense he runs rose to fame during the years’ of Seattle Seahawk’s Legion of Boom when the elite secondary was complemented by a ferocious pass-rush that could just as easily get after the quarterback as they could stop the run.
The LEO position is usually described as a big outside linebacker/small defensive end hybrid. For the Chargers, the player currently filling that role is Melvin Ingram. Ingram stands at just 6’2 and about 245 pounds. He used to be 260+ when he came out of South Carolina, but he transformed his body to better suit this role. Behind him is 2018 second-round pick Uchenna Nwosu who is also right around those same measurements.
Among the UDFA this year, one player stands out as a potential new LEO player and that’s Jessie Lemonier, the 6’3, 240 pound pass-rusher out of Liberty University.
Lemonier played his prep ball at Hialeah High School in Hialeah, Florida. It’s unclear what he did following his graduation in 2015 as I can’t find anything about his time playing football at Ventura College in 2017. He played just a single season in Ventura, collecting 79 tackles, 18.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and one interception. He helped Ventura to their 16th conference title in school history and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference.
His success did not stop after leaving the JUCO ranks, however. Lemonier went on to record 13.5 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks to go along with 55 tackles and two forced fumbles in his first season at Liberty. As a senior with the Flames, Lemonier took his game to another level when he finished with 80 total stops, 15.5 tackles-for-loss. and 10.5 sacks with a forced fumble. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent Team right before helping his team beat Georgia Southern in the Cure Bowl on the back of a multi-sack performance.
Jessie Lemonier and Juwan Wells with a big sack for the defense late in the second quarter! However, North Texas takes a 21-7 lead into the break over Liberty. pic.twitter.com/4Sf387Q2Kv— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) September 23, 2018
It’s no surprise why the Chargers signed Lemonier. He is the picture-perfect look for a LEO defender at 6’2 and 240 pounds who has a knack for not only getting after the quarterback, but bringing ball-carriers to a halt at or behind the line of scrimmage. With a quick burst off the line of scrimmage, Lemonier can take advantage of lumbering offensive tackles by running the loop and beating them to the spot. His most common move is a double-hand swipe and rip combo that deals away with blockers who don’t get a good snap off the line.
On the flip side, Lemonier does need to incorporate more into his pass-rush arsenal. Besides the move I talked about above, he doesn’t have anything in the way of counter moves and second/third options when Plan A doesn’t work out. But that’s what getting mentored by Melvin Ingram is for, right?
Lemonier, to me, has one of the best chances to make this roster as another depth piece who can rush the passer. Keeping a third player who likely can only play the LEO spot doesn’t sound like the smartest idea, but after the team lost Chris Peace, a former UDFA OLB last year who was vultured by the Giants, I can see them wanting to keep a promising player as close to them as possible.