The San Diego Chargers lost pass-rushing specialist Shaun Phillips in free agency, and now they'll have to move on without a young edge-rusher oozing with potential and inherent talent.
Melvin Ingram, the team's first-round selection in the 2012 draft, tore his ACL during OTA practice on Tuesday. The Chargers' official Twitter account confirmed the news:
Melvin Ingram sustained a torn ACL in his left knee during OTA practice today. No other information was released.— San Diego Chargers (@chargers) May 15, 2013
The 6'1'', 265-pound unique athlete's rookie season was a disappointment, as he finished the year with 41 tackles, five pass deflections and one sack.
However, he was penciled in as one of San Diego's starting 3-4 outside linebackers for his sophomore campaign.
Much was expected and needed from the youthful and unproven Ingram in 2013, but with the harsh reality of his long-term injury setting in, the Chargers will be forced to adjust.
Ingram's 2012 campaign and 2013 Outlook
Before his ACL tear, Ingram was given a clean bill of heath and was primed to improve on his underwhelming debut in San Diego.
He was on the field for 475 snaps in 2012, and ProFootballFocus (subscription required) actually awarded him a pass-rush productivity grade of 9.7, which was the 8th-highest out of 32 3-4 outside linebackers who were on the field for at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.
He received a +1.6 rating against the run, which placed him 15th among 3-4 outside linebackers.
His upside was apparent.
Ingram was not nearly as comfortable or effective in coverage as many believed he would be, as his coverage grade was -3.7, one of the worst ratings at his position.
With the departures of Antwan Barnes and Phillips—a duo that combined for 12.5 sacks last year—Ingram may have been used more frequently as a pass-rusher than anything else. In theory, that could have significantly aided his development in year 2.
How the Chargers Can Adjust
Already devoid of established defenders who excel rushing the quarterback, the Chargers are in somewhat of a desperation mode following Ingram's injury.
Larry English, another former first-round pick who has never accumulated more than three sacks in any given season, will likely fill in for Ingram on the edge.
An upgrade is definitely needed.
Therefore, the Chargers may look to sign a veteran.
Having lost lost Melvin Ingram to a torn ACL, Chargers are bringing DE/LB Dwight Freeney to San Diego on Weds for visit.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 15, 2013
Freeney made his mark in the NFL as a 4-3 defensive end with the Indianapolis Colts during the 2000's, but the 33-year-old transitioned to the 3-4 outside linebacker spot in 2012, and although he wasn't fantastic, he was far from a liability.
PFF gave him a pass-rush productivity grade of 8.8, as the former All-Pro totaled 47 pressures—sacks, hits, hurries—in 414 pass-rush snaps.
If he can be acquired somewhat inexpensively, he would instantly be plugged into Ingram's spot in San Diego's defensive front seven.
Other possibilities include John Abraham and Israel Idonije, but as far as players who have 3-4 outside linebacker experience, Freeney could be the best option at this juncture.
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