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Evaluating the Inside Linebackers with LB Coach Bob Babich

Over the coming weeks, we'll be checking in with the Chargers' position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Linebackers Coach Bob Babich.

Chargers.com:First off, this is your first year being a position coach after spending the last three seasons as a defensive coordinator.  What about coaching linebackers did you miss?   

Babich:The thing that I love about being a position coach is number one, having a group of guys in a room you meet with every day.  I enjoy helping them grow as football players and as men.  The transition for me from coordinator to linebackers coach has been really smooth and enjoyable.  I love being a position coach, and always have. It's something I missed, and it's something I feel real good about.  It's been great so far here.  The staff has been great, and my wife and I love this city.  The players are fantastic, so everything about being here has been great.

Chargers.com:This is the third year in a row our players have a new coach at this position.  How hard can that be for a player, and what is your coaching philosophy?

Babich:It is a tough situation for the players because coaches come in and they have their philosophies on fundamentals, what they want to do schematically and how they want a room to operate. What I've done is come in and with (Assistant Linebackers Coach) Bobby King, we've implemented a philosophy and culture we believe in within the linebackers room.  The guys have responded beautifully. It's been a smooth transition.  Now out at practice, we want practice to be as hard as it can be so that the games will be easy. We want to do everything we can (for) our players to be successful on Sundays. We want to have a lot of energy, a lot of fun and just go out there and get better every day.

Chargers.com:Let's focus on the inside linebackers and then delve into the outside guys tomorrow.  Entering his fourth year, Manti Te'o said he wants to be a leader out there.  Is he the leader of the linebackers?

Babich:Oh, absolutely!  He does a great job out there.  Manti is the quarterback of our defense, and he has done a fantastic job with it, understands the defensive system and is extremely vocal.  He is extremely energetic about what he is doing, too.  There is enthusiasm, and the guys rally around that.  He has a pure love for the game, the Chargers and his teammates.

Chargers.com:What does Manti need to do to take his game to the next level?

Babich:Well it's not just Manti, but all of the guys.  The little things are what take you to the next step. I told them that just tackling guys doesn't take them to the next level.  That is their job.  What takes you to the next level are the big plays.  The sacks.  The forced fumbles.  Scoring on defense.  Those are the things all of our players need to do to take their game to the next level.

Chargers.com:His bookend inside, Denzel Perryman, is a guy who has already built a reputation for leveling the big hit. How intimidating is it when you have a player like Denzel who can pack a punch?  

Babich:Opponents will know where he is.  They already know he is a physical football player from watching the tape.  He had some bigtime tackles last year, and (hard hits) are obviously one of the best things he does as a player.  I actually coached Denzel in the Senior Bowl when he was coming out, so I saw him up close first hand in practices. In that amount of time, I saw that he is a football player.  Now, entering his second year, he is doing a good job understanding the scheme and how he fits in to become a better overall football player. I'm really pleased with the progress he made throughout the spring.

Chargers.com:We took Joshua Perry early in the fourth round.  What would classify as a successful rookie year for the Ohio State product?

Babich:I think special teams are important when you are a rookie, and Joshua will need to perform well there.  If you are on the 53 man squad and active roster on game day, special teams will be big for you.  So number one, he needs to make sure he does a good job on special teams.  Then as a linebacker, there is a lot that has been thrown at him this spring as far as scheme. He is doing just fine, but the longer he is in the scheme, the better player he'll become.  All we want to do in the linebacker room is play fast.  If you make a mistake, we talk about making it full speed.  That is all we are trying to do, and Joshua is doing a good job.  We look forward to the progress he'll make throughout training camp.

Chargers.com:Some thought Jatavis Brown would play outside linebacker or even safety.  What about the fifth-round pick makes him a fit at inside linebacker in our scheme?

Babich:He definitely fits our inside linebacker mold because he is extremely fast, extremely smart and has been doing a very good job showing up in practices.  He is very conscientious.  His future is bright, and he is a good young man.  I'm excited to see how well he's been doing so far.

Chargers.com:Nick Dzubnar defied the odds last year, and not only made the team but led the way in special teams tackles.  He said he wants to play a bigger role on defense in 2016.  What does he need to do to carve out that bigger role?

Babich:Like all our linebackers have to do, he just needs to do his job and be productive.  Nick is a very good football player.  He is extremely tough and is a smart guy. To make all the plays he made on special teams last year tells you that he has playmaking ability he can make on defense, too.  He just needs to do that when he gets the opportunities.

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