Melvin Ingram injury a major setback for reworked San Diego defense
Antwan Barnes is a New York Jet and Shaun Phillips a Denver Bronco, so the San Diego Chargers had every intention to turn one of their starting outside linebacker spots over to 2012 first-rounder Melvin Ingram.
On to Plan B.
Ingram tore the ACL in his left knee during Tuesday's OTA workout, the team announced. That injury will end Ingram's second season before it even begins.
It also leaves the Chargers in an absolutely dire situation at linebacker. Ingram picked up just one sack last season, but the Chargers had high hopes he could be their disruptive presence off the edge this season. Without him, they're down to Jarret Johnson, 2009 first-round bust Larry English and 2013 sixth-rounder Tourek Williams, plus a couple of undrafted free agents.
Johnson (essentially a two-down run-stuffer) and English played 703 combined snaps last season -- 154 fewer than Phillips played on his own. Williams picked up 6.5 sacks for Florida International last season, so the opportunity could be there for him to step up, but all expectations were that he would be a special-teams player in 2013 and ease into a bigger role.
Abraham reportedly has been holding out hope that he could find a full-time job somewhere in the league. San Diego may suddenly be able to offer that chance. Freeney could be a fit, too, though the Chargers are pretty late to that party -- Freeney's expected to begin visiting a handful of teams this week.
Beyond those two, there's not an abundance of good options at the 3-4 OLB spot. Also-rans like 36-year-old Clark Haggans or former Charger Antwan Applewhite may be considered, if only because San Diego has to find another body or two to compete now.
This is a setback that the Chargers could ill-afford. They're already facing the challenge of breaking in a new coaching staff in a division that looks like it is Denver's to lose. The Chiefs should be a team on the rise too, thanks to Andy Reid's arrival and the additions of players like Alex Smith and Eric Fisher. San Diego, coming off a 7-9 year and having missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, may have struggled to keep up as it was.
Now, with Ingram down, the Chargers' decision to put off adding pass-rush help until later in the draft looms as a potential dagger, even if their first three picks (D.J. Fluker, Manti Te'o and Keenan Allen) filled positions of need.
If there is any silver lining here (and this is not much of one), it's that Ingram's injury occurred early enough for San Diego to figure out its next move. None of the options on the table, however, are particularly appealing.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the San Diego Chargers will bring in former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney for a workout.