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2020 Positional Overview: Linebackers

Positional_Overview_Linebackers

Chargers.com will break down each of the team's position groups leading up to 2020 training camp. This week continues with the linebackers.

Drue Tranquill

After a strong finish to his rookie year, NFL Network draft analyst and Chargers radio analyst Daniel Jeremiah thinks Tranquill is due for a breakout sophomore season.

"Nobody around the country knows about this kid, by the way," Jeremiah said. "And that's coming. And that's something that, we see it every week watching these games, but nationally people are going to see how good Drue Tranquill's going to be in this defense – and him and Kenneth Murray, it's going to be fun to watch."

Tranquill, a captain at Notre Dame, played 55 percent of the snaps on special teams in 2019. He blocked a punt in Week 1 vs. Indianapolis and then again in Week 9 vs. Green Bay – both Chargers wins. The Pro Football Writers of America voted him to the All-Rookie Team as a special teamer.

Tranquill appeared in 15 games and made three starts on defense in 2019. In Week 10, he had a career high 14 total tackles in a Thursday night road game in Oakland. A few weeks later, Tranquill totaled seven tackles – including three for loss – in Week 12 at Denver. He finished the season with 64 total tackles.

Kenneth Murray

The Chargers moved back in to the first round to draft Murray No. 23 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Murray played in 40 career games at the University of Oklahoma, totaling 325 tackles (36.5 for loss), and 9.5 sacks. He earned third-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12 Honors in 2019.

"It's almost like he's built to play defense," general manager Tom Telesco said shortly after drafting Murray. "I think that helps, especially in the position he plays and the style the plays. We feel like he's going to fit in very well with our guys on defense."

Jeremiah said that the addition of Murray gives defensive coordinator Gus Bradley even more room to be creative.

"You want to have impact, difference-making players at all three levels and the cool thing about it is when you look at some of the things [the Chargers] can do on third down, you're gonna have an opportunity where at times you're gonna see [Joey] Bosa kick inside," Jeremiah said on Chargers Weekly. "And if you look down the middle of that defense for the Chargers, you could be going Bosa, Murray, Derwin James at different times; how you can align them in so many different ways. They're all versatile players."

Uchenna Nwosu

In just his second year in the NFL, Nwosu was the Chargers' 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.

The former USC standout appeared in 16 games last season, making three starts. He finished the year with 31 total tackles, two sacks and seven quarterback hits. He was on the field for 36 percent of the team's defensive snaps and 57 percent of special teams snaps.

This offseason, Telesco discussed the versatility of the team's linebackers, including Nwosu.

"Uchenna can play SAM linebacker as well as a defensive end and rush the passer," he said. "To have a lot of guys that can play different spots really helps us."

Denzel Perryman

Perryman is entering his sixth season with the Chargers.

Last season, he totaled 68 tackles (five for loss) in 14 games – 10 of which were starts. Perryman made a season-high eight tackles in a Week 7 loss at Tennessee.

Since joining the Chargers in 2015, Perryman has played in 65 games and made 56 starts. He has 301 career tackles and four sacks. In a recent Chargers Weekly interview, Tranquill named Perryman as someone who helped him transition to the pro game.

"I consider myself fortunate to be able to play [last season] with guys like Thomas Davis and Denzel [Perryman]; guys who I think combined had a total of like 22 or 23 years of experience," Tranquill said. "And so it was nice to be in a locker room and specifically a room of linebackers who had that experience, and I was able to draw from and learn from."

Nick Vigil

Vigil signed with the Chargers this offseason as an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

He's coming off his best season as a pro. In 16 starts for the Bengals in 2019, Vigil had 111 total tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble

"He can play MIKE and play WILL," Telesco said of Vigil this offseason. "He played WILL with the Bengals and was a two-year starter there. We like him a lot. The scouts are very excited about signing him. He's tough, he's smart, he's very athletic, he's long and he's played a good amount of football."

Kyzir White

White is entering his third year with the Chargers.

After a shortened rookie season due to injury, White played in all 16 games in 2019, making seven starts. He finished the year with 40 total tackles and an interception.

Similar to Nwosu, Telesco praised White for his versatility.

"Two years ago, he had some knee issues," Telesco said this offseason. "I thought he came through last year pretty well. It's very rare for a college safety to transition to that SAM linebacker spot, but he has done it really well. … He played WILL linebacker for us his rookie year before he got hurt. I know he can go over there and play."

Rounding out the room

Malik Jefferson returns after joining the Chargers' practice squad in November 2019. He also appeared in nine games for the Cleveland Browns last season. Telesco said that the organization "had very high grades on" Jefferson going into the 2018 NFL Draft. Jefferson was drafted by Cincinnati that year in the third round (No. 78 overall).

Emeke Egbule is entering his second season with the Chargers. A sixth-round pick from Houston in 2019, Egbule played 43 percent of the snaps on special teams.

Asmar Bilal is a 2020 undrafted free agent from Notre Dame. He played in 45 games for the Irish, totaling 174 tackles and 17.5 for loss. He was college teammates with Tranquill, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, defensive end Isaac Rochell and the Chargers' sixth-round pick in 2020, safety Alohi Gilman.

Cole Christiansen is a 2020 undrafted free agent from Army. In 41 college games, Christiansen had 275 tackles – 20.5 for loss – and 3.5 sacks. He was named First Team All-Independent in 2018 and 2019.

Romeo Finley is a 2020 undrafted free agent from the University of Miami. He played in 32 games for the Hurricanes as a defensive back, finishing his career with 95 total tackles – nine for loss – and three interceptions.

*College stats courtesy ofSports Reference.

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