Chargers position outlook 2018: Denzel Perryman needs help at LB

COSTA MESA, Calif. – With one of the worst run defense in the NFL, the Los Angeles Chargers have to get faster and more physical at the second level.

The Chargers played better against the run when middle linebacker Denzel Perryman was healthy, but the Miami product has to figure out a way to stay on the field in 2018.

Lock: Perryman

Looks good: Kyle Emanuel, Hayes Pullard

On the bubble: Jatavis Brown, Chris Landrum, James Onwualu, Charmeachealle Moore

Free agents: Korey Toomer, Nick Dzubnar

The good: Perryman made a successful transition from a 3-4 inside linebacker to a “MIKE” inside linebacker in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme. The Chargers allowed 142 rushing yards a contest in games Perryman did not play, and but they held teams to 117 rushing yards a contest in the seven games the Miami product was healthy. Pullard totaled 74 =tackles in 10 starts as a fill-in player for Perryman. Brown finished with 79 tackles for a second straight season. Dzubnar led the team with 21 special teams tackles.

The bad: While effective when on the field, Perryman has yet to play a full 16-game season in three years as a pro. A second-round selection by the Chargers in the 2015 draft, Perryman has missed 15 of a possible 48 games due to injury. The Chargers allowed a league-high 994 rushing yards after contact. A key contributor for the Chargers as a rookie, Brown took a step back in his development and playmaking ability in his second season as a pro under Bradley. The Chargers have to figure out how to take advantage of Brown’s unique skill set.

The money: Perryman will make $1.08 million in the final year of his rookie deal, while Emanuel and Pullard will make $705,000 apiece in 2018 if they are on the Week 1 roster. Brown will make $630,000 in the third year of his rookie deal. Toomer is an unrestricted free agent, and Dzubnar is a restricted free agent. I would bring them both back as depth to compete for jobs on the back end of the roster.

Draft priority: The Chargers should draft a linebacker in the top three rounds of this year’s draft. Versatile Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds would be ideal because of his length at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, along with elite athletic ability. However, Edmunds probably will be gone when the Chargers select at No. 17. Other players who could make sense later in the draft include South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard and USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.