Scout's take: Chargers' outside linebacker

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
1:00
PM ET
Considered one of the top needs at the end of the 2013 season, selecting an outside linebacker early in this year’s draft might take a back seat to more dire needs for the San Diego Chargers.

And the reason for that group tumbling down San Diego’s positional need list is the players returning from season-ending injuries who are available for the Chargers to fill in depth on the roster.

Dwight Freeney (torn quad) and Larry English (torn bicep) returned from season-ending injuries last season, and are expected to compete for playing time in 2014.

Young players like Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams should continue to develop. And San Diego signed CFL standout Cordarro Law to a futures contract this offseason. Law finished with 14 sacks for the Calgary Stampeders in Canada in 2013, and could be considered like a draft pick for the Chargers.

Still, San Diego finished with just 35 sacks last season, tied for No. 23 in the NFL, and needs better production from the pass rush if the Chargers are going to compete with the Denver Broncos for an AFC West title.

ESPN NFL insider Matt Williamson closes out our examination at San Diego’s positional needs this week with a closer look at outside linebacker.

Chargers OLB depth: Starters -- OLB Melvin Ingram, OLB Freeney. Reserves -- Jarret Johnson, Keiser, English, Law, Williams, Reggie Walker.

Q: What’s your evaluation of San Diego’s talent level at outside linebacker?

While the Chargers have to get better production from this position, Williamson likes the overall talent of this group currently on the roster.

Specifically, he believes that Ingram will emerge as a frontline player once he’s fully healed from knee surgery. Williamson was impressed Ingram’s skill set coming out of South Carolina.

“He’s so versatile,” Williamson said, when asked about Ingram. “He’s a fluid, explosive mover. He uses leverage well. I think you can line him up at a lot of spots and he can be effective. He’s certainly flashing. He just needs to put it all together for an entire season.”

Q: What do they need to accomplish this offseason to improve?

Improvement and development from players currently on the roster. Williamson believes San Diego has more urgent needs at other positions that should be addressed first, and would not take an edge rusher early in the draft.

“I think you can get another year out of Freeney by using Johnson as a run stuffer to keep Freeney fresh,” Williamson said. “I think there’s so many other spots to fill, I would kind of shy away from taking an outside linebacker and look to fill other spots.”

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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