The Chargers' worst fears were confirmed on Monday when they learned Denzel Perryman suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday. Perryman sustained the injury to his LCL on the second play from scrimmage vs. the Oakland Raiders.
"We found out today we're going to lose Denzel for the rest of the season," Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "That was definitely a blow to our defense. It's going to (require) surgery. He's gone for the year... Injuries, you can't control those. (Denzel is) very frustrated right now. All he can do now is get healthy, have a good attitude, go to rehab every day and help his teammates the best he can."
As Lynn explained, losing Perryman is a tough blow as the linebacker entered the game as the team's leading tackler on the year with 64 total tackles. In particular, he was a force against the run, playing a significant role in turning the Bolts' fortunes around this year when it came to the rush defense.
"I think the rush defense is where we're going to miss him the most," Lynn mentioned. "We didn't really (use him to) pressure a lot but he did a nice job of dropping in zone and tipping balls. I believe the rush defense is where everyone is going to have to pick it up a notch…. Denzel is a starter for a reason. Our rush defense is a lot better with Denzel in there. We're going to have to pick it up collectively as a group now."
While losing Perryman is tough, Lynn also explained how the team has several options to replace him going forward. They include everything from shifting the current linebackers they have around to scouring the waiver wire for new players to bring in.
"It's a next-man-up mentality," he said. "We have guys on the (practice) squad that know our system that we're going to look at bringing up. We're going to look at the waiver wire. But we're going to look within our team first to get guys to step up… Every man is going to have to pick it up now and bring a little bit more to the table. When Denzel was in the game, he was a difference maker."
One of those players the team likely will turn to is Hayes Pullard, who started 10 games in Perryman's place a year ago.
"Hayes Pullard, he's back with the team now," Lynn said of the linebacker they brought back into the fold last week. "He did a heck of a job stepping up last year and playing the Mike position when Denzel was out. He'll get another opportunity."
Another option is Kyle Emanuel, who predominately serves as the team's strongside linebacker. However, he's filled in at the Mike spot in the past.
"Kyle Emanuel played inside in preseason for us and some in the regular season," Lynn said. "The more he plays there, the better he looks and that's another option (where) we could move him inside."
The possibility of shifting safety Adrian Phillips to the Mike linebacker spot was floated by the media, but Lynn was quick to shoot that down for the most part.
"Adrian has been that Mike backer in our dime package and he's done an unbelievable job as a linebacker. But, he's not your every down Mike."