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Chargers' 2014 Fortunes Rely Heavily on the Health of Melvin Ingram

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Even Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (l.) has given San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram a hand for his play in 2013. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Even Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (l.) has given San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram a hand for his play in 2013. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Injuries are a part of the NFL, and the San Diego Chargers had their share of them last season. It began with Danario Alexander suffering a season-ending knee injury on the very first day of training camp, only to be followed by Manti Te’o, Malcom Floyd, Dwight Freeney and Donald Butler all getting hurt as they all rode the injury Merry-go-round in 2013.

But, there wasn’t a bigger injury to a Charger player than Melvin Ingram’s torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, as his absence from the starting lineup left a huge void on the defense. Only after his return to the active roster in early November did the Chargers play with more consistency. Ingram’s defensive presence helped the Chargers secure the final AFC wild-card playoff berth. 

If you need further evidence of his importance to the defense, then take a closer look at Ingram’s performance in the Chargers’ lone playoff win. It seemed as if he was lined up in the Cincinnati Bengals’ backfield all game long, as his harassment of Andy Dalton led to the Chargers recording three sacks in the contest. Ingram’s interception late in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for San Diego.

No question he’s coming into his own as a team leader, as Ingram’s return to the lineup brought energy and passion that inspired the defense to play at a higher level. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano envisions Ingram having a major role in this season’s ultra-aggressive pass rushing attack. If Ingram can play injury-free and excel at sacking the quarterback, then indeed the franchise is heading in the right direction.

Unfortunately, major injuries derail teams from achieving their goals. Losing Ingram for any length of time will expose the Chargers’ one weakness: a lack of depth at the outside linebacker position.

Yes, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are key components to the Chargers’ success, but having to play without Ingram could spoil San Diego’s chances of making successive playoff appearances.