Melvin Ingram re-signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in what could be one of the most underrated but important moves in re-shaping the AFC West.
Melvin Ingram Re-Signing Could Bring Philip Rivers Defense He Deserves
Being a Chargers fan in 2016 must have been tough.
The team lost 11 games, which is bad enough, but becomes further maddening when eight of those losses were by seven points or fewer.
Add in that no team had more injuries last season than the then-San Diego Chargers, who saw whole units devastated by the injury bug. The offensive line had to be chopped and changed going into almost every game and there were times last season when one felt exasperated quarterback Philip Rivers would be introducing himself to his wide receivers in the locker room before the game, such was the extent of the injuries amongst that group.
Then, to top it all off, the franchise packed-up and left San Diego for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. No fans had it worse in 2016 – and yes I am including you Cleveland (you still have LeBron).
Much needed boost
Those who have stuck with the Chargers through this period, the consistently beleaguered Rivers being one of them, needed a boost this off-season and last weekend they got it.
The Chargers re-signed pass rusher Melvin Ingram on a four-year, $66 million deal per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The 28-year-old had been franchise-tagged earlier this year. However, by committing to this deal the Chargers front office proved they learnt their lessons from last season’s tiresome stand-off with rookie Joey Bosa and also kept the leader of their sneaky-good defense in place.
And that defense is the reason for all this optimism.
Ingram is arguably the most underrated defensive force in the NFL. Superstar Khalil Mack is the only other player in the league to have both 50 tackles and at least eight sacks the past two seasons.
The former South Carolina standout has recorded 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons and combined with last year’s third overall pick Bosa to produce a devastating pass rush on one of the league’s most underrated defenses. Bosa, who missed the first four games of last season, was a freak as rookie, totaling 10.5 sacks in a season that should have been rewarded with a Pro Bowl berth. The Chargers 35 sacks last season ranked 14th in the league but with Bosa coming into his second year and Ingram fighting for a new contract, those numbers should increase.
It isn’t just the Chargers front seven that opponents should be worried about this season. In the backfield, the team have one of the best, if least talked about, cornerback tandems in the league.
2016 standout Casey Hayward led the league in interceptions last year. That’s right, league-leading Casey Hayward. Many people will not have even heard of the guy. Combine him with another Pro Bowler in Jason Verrett – who was yet another Charger to miss most of last season with a torn ACL – and you have a pass defense to rival any in the NFL.
The defense was middling in 2016, ranking 16th overall. But with Ingram and Bosa in their front seven, Hayward behind them and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley – one of the best in the business – pulling the strings, this could be an elite unit in 2017.
Competitive AFC West
An elite defense will be crucial in the AFC West. The division looks set to be one of the most competitive in football this season, with Derek Carr’s Oakland Raiders the current media darlings of the league and the stacked Kansas City Chiefs going 22-4 over their last 26 regular season games. Throw 2015 Super Bowl champs Denver into the mix and the previously low-profile division looks set for an enticing season.
Rivers has shown throughout his career that he can ride with the best of them. The 35-year-old has totaled over 4,000 yards every season, bar one, since 2008. But all too often it has been Rivers against the world, the gunslinger forced to make throw after throw trying to keep up with opposing offenses running riot on the other side of the ball.
But not anymore. Rivers knows it is now or never and finally, maybe, in a new city and under a new name, he might at long last have the defense he deserves.