It’s no secret that the Chargers have preached the importance of depth all off-season long. On the eve of the team’s season opener against the Oakland Raiders, one unit in particular sticks out as being incredibly rich with talent – the linebacker corp.
Thus, it’s no surprise that head coach Norv Turner says this unit is the key to the defense’s success.
“The strength of our team obviously we think is going to be our linebacker group,” he said following Friday’s practice. “We’re going to dress a bunch of them, and as we go through the season, hopefully we’ll be able to keep a rotation going. That’s when we’ve been our best. When you have five good outside linebackers like we do, they all bring a little different dimension, whether in the pass rush or different looks, so keeping them fresh should help us throughout the entire game.”
“I think whoever lines up against us has to be ready for continuous hell for four quarters,” said Spikes. “There is no drop off in talent at any of the positions, inside or out. Everybody has their own thing that makes them special, and that makes this unit special.”
Recently elected one of the team captains on defense, Spikes also sees himself as a resource for the other members of the unit, especially the youngsters.
“I just want to import my knowledge on them and tell them what I see wrong,” he said. “For me, it’s important that I keep it real. That I’m 100% honest whether they like it or not because at the end of the day, as grown men that’s all we want. And if I see you slacking, or if I see you struggling in an area, I owe it to these guys to let them know and help them however I can.”
Having such a talented stable of linebackers is a relief to first-year defensive coordinator John Pagano, who believes each member of the unit compliments one another.
“The big thing about (our linebackers) is that we have a rotation for each moment of the game,” he said. “Any situation that comes out, we’re going to be able to roll those guys in and out. The best thing about having depth is being able to keep guys fresh.”
Johnson, a free agent acquisition from Baltimore, echoed those sentiments, explaining how having a skilled rotation gives the defense a huge advantage.
“We are extremely deep, especially on the outside,” he said. “You have two veterans in me and SP (Philips), Larry who nobody’s been able to block all camp, Antwan Barnes who had 11 sacks a year ago and a rookie (Ingram) as talented as I’ve been around. And that doesn’t even count TK (Spikes) and those guys on the inside. When you get into the fourth quarter and the O-line is staying on the field while we’re rolling guys in every couple of plays, guys who are fresh, it’s a huge advantage for us.”Clearly, the Bolts think they have struck gold with a talented stable of linebackers. The only thing left is to go out on the field and prove those words true, which they will surely look to do Monday night.