It is no secret that the San Diego Chargers have struggled defensively this season. The team has been consistently beaten in the passing game and only average against the run.
One problem that has faced this defense is the injuries at the linebacker position. Before the season started, one of the best linebackers on the team, Melvin Ingram, suffered a torn ACL. He has been unable to play all season and the Chargers have struggled as a result. To help fill the void, the team signed Dwight Freeney. Unfortunately, he has torn his quad making him out for the rest of the season as well. In addition, linebacker Larry English tore his pectoral muscle and he also is out for the rest of the year.
With all of these injuries, the Chargers’ linebacking corps has lacked the depth and talent it has needed to win important games. However, Ingram appears to be recovering well from his injury. He has even begun to practice with the team and it looks like he could return to the NFL very soon. While he may be ready to come back sooner than expected, the question is not when can he come back, but should he come back at all?
There is no question his return would help the team significantly. Not only is Ingram a great football player, but the team needs all the help they can get on defense. He will add depth to a thin linebacking corps and will also become an instant leader that can help the young players develop their skills and awareness. His return could even mean the Chargers squeeze and extra win or two out of their schedule.
The problem is the risk in bringing Ingram back early. The sooner Ingram comes back to play, the less time his body has had to recover and the more likely he is to reinjure himself. If Ingram does re-injure his ACL, it could be much more severe the second time around.
So the question remains, is it necessary to bring Ingram back this year? At this point, I’d say it isn’t. The Chargers are sitting at 4-6 with a tough schedule on the horizon. If the Chargers aren’t a real playoff contender, there is no point in risking another injury when the team could make a serious run next season. If Ingram plays and the team doesn’t make the playoffs, the risky move was pointless.
That being said, the Chargers don’t need to play him immediately (in fact they can’t) if they want to use him this year. The best move would be to wait three weeks or so and see where the team is in the playoff hunt. If the Bolts can win two of the next three games (Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, and New York Giants) then the team should seriously consider bringing him back. His presence could make the difference in clinching a wildcard berth. If they have below a .500 record, it shouldn’t even be considered.