Pickin’ Bolts: A Comprehensive Look at Chargers’ Front Seven

.Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
.Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With this review, in which I couple the defensive linemen and the linebackers, it’s important to recognize, that in today’s NFL, with multiple receiver sets, five and even six DB formations are not uncommon and that as such, the “Front 7,” often is made up with fewer than seven men in the game.

The San Diego Chargers employ a base 3-4 front seven concept on defense. However, unlike the traditional “Oklahoma” or “Okie” 3-4 in which each of the front three have 2-gap responsibilities, the Chargers utilize 1-gap responsibility, or “under,” within their 3-4. Beyond that, the Chargers rotate out of their base 3-4 so frequently it’s almost dishonest to call the 3-4 their base. They are in sub-packages well over 50% of the time (as is necessary with today’s pass-happy offenses – I didn’t even include Dexter McCoil in this article because although Chargers.com lists him as an ILB, he’s really more of a hybrid LB/S and spends most of his practice time with the defensive backs).

In this article we will be breaking down the Chargers’ Front-7 personnel, roster moves, and projections for the 2016 season.

Roster moves:

March 3, released: ILB Donald Butler, ILB Kavell Conner, ILB Chi Chi Ariguzo

March 10, signed DT/NT Brandon Mebane

March 11, re-signed: DT/NT Damion Square

April 28, drafted DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

April 29, drafted: ILB Joshua Perry, Ohio State, LB/S Jatavis Brown, Akron

April 30, agreed to terms with UDFAs: OLB, Chris Landrum, Jacksonville State, LB Shaq Petteway, West Virginia, DT, Carlos Wray, Duke

Who’s here?

From the Chargers.com roster, here are the defensive linemen and linebackers on the team:

Bosa, Joey DE (R)
Gardner, Ben DE
Philon, Darius DE
Wray, Carlos DE (R)
Ndulue, Chuka DL
Liuget, Corey DT
Palepoi, Tenny DT
Square, Damion DT
Te’o, Manti ILB
Dzubnar, Nick ILB
Perryman, Denzel ILB
Perry, Joshua LB (R)
Petteway, Shaq LB (R)
Lissemore, Sean NT
Carrethers, Ryan NT
Mebane, Brandon NT
Attaochu, Jeremiah OLB
Brown, Jatavis OLB (R)
Emanuel, Kyle OLB
Hekking, Brock OLB (R)
Ingram, Melvin OLB
Landrum, Chris OLB (R)
Marcordes, Tyler OLB (R)
Williams, Tourek OLB (R)

The hard part here is we don’t know how many players are going to make the roster. Here are the ones who are probably assured rosters spots:

DEs: Bosa & Philon

DT: Liuget

NTs: Carrethers, Lissmore, & Mebane

ILBs: Perryman & Te’o

LBs: Perry

OLBs: Attaochu, Brown, Emanuel, & Ingram

I sorted them according to the way the Chargers have them listed on their website. But the interesting thing to note here is that we have only 6 D-linemen and 7 linebackers who should be assured of roster spots. The Chargers will probably keep  6-8 DL and another 8-9 linebackers.

What are the roles?

The other thing to think about is what formations will be used. Obviously the “base” 3-4 formation will be:



They will also frequently employ a 4-2 formation with 5 DBs (probably more frequently than they use their base formation):









They will also use (with 6 DBs):









So again, there’s the base 3-4 and an additional 6 formations for 5 & 6 DB formations. And this doesn’t include all of their blitz permutations either.

Who gets cut?

As I suggested with the OL piece, it can be easier to get to who stays if we start by eliminating those who are probably among the first cuts. Unfortunately that’s harder to do with this group because while it’s pretty obvious where the line of demarcation between starter/major contributor vs. practice squad is, it’s far less visible which of those who fall into that second grouping will be kept.

The Chargers will keep some of the follow as scout team/practice squad players, but it is hard to say why one player will be cut over another. Will the Chargers keep last year’s practice team players, Chuka Ndule and Ben Gardner, or will they replace them with UDFA Carols Wray? Will the Bolts hang on to last year’s special teams players/reserve linebackers Nick Dzubnar and/or Brock Hekking or do they think Shaq Petteway has greater ability and upside? And which of these 3 UDFA OLB will the Chargers hang on to: Chris Landrum, Tyler Marcordes, or Tourek Williams?

Also with Te’o being a disappointment so far, the Chargers could cut him prior to June 1 and have freshly drafted Perry assume the starting role earlier than expected. Note the grades ProFootballFocus.com gives each of the Chargers defenders. Te’o’s grade/production is easily replaceable.


The Chargers will probably keep 6-8 D-linemen on their active roster (Bosa, Liuget, Mebane, and Philon are certainties and the last 2-4 will probably come from Carrethers, Lissemore, Palepoi, or Square). And because linebackers make up so much of special teams, the Chargers will probably keep 8-9 (Attaochu, Emanuel, Ingram, Perry, and Perryman, are virtual certainties and the last 3-4 should be among Brown, Dzubnar, Petteway, Hekking, and Te’o).

Thanks for reading. And please, if you are not already doing so, follow me on Twitter: @PickinBolts

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