Once upon a time, prospects without a true position were considered jacks of all trades, or in scouting parlance, “tweeners,” and were knocked down draft boards. However, in today’s game, players of this kind are no longer simply tweeners, and instead they’re “versatile,” and their stocks are raised. Melvin Ingram, who the San Diego Chargers selected eighteenth overall in the draft, is a prime example.
Ingram played nearly every position in the front seven during his time at South Carolina, starting with his “natural” (I use this term loosely) defensive end position, and sliding in to 3 technique under tackle as well as standing up as an outside linebacker. This led to Ingram creating matchup advantages as he ripped through heavy-legged, waist bending guards on the interior.
His explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and outstanding lateral agility enabled him to administer several pass rush moves against interior linemen, who typically have issues in pass protection which is why they’re on the inside. Ingram has a deadly inside spin move that he uses as a counter move off of his speed rush, which is also very dangerous because of his elite quickness.
This explosiveness and schematic versatility will translate over to the NFL because San Diego plays hybrid fronts. The Chargers operate out of a base 30 front defense, which has 3 down linemen and typically 4 linebackers unless the team is going to a sub-package, such as a nickel or dime, which defenses are spending over sixty percent of their snaps a year in.
In their 30 front, Ingram is likely to serve as “ghost” 5 technique, which in layman terms translates to outside linebacker. Ingram’s explosiveness and quickness off the edge can be problematic for offensive tackles, especially since he has a shorter stature. That enables him to have a natural leverage advantage and dip his shoulder to take a shorter path to the quarterback in a pass rushing style similar to Bruce Irvin’s approach.
There’s also the possibility that the Chargers use him as an inside linebacker. This doesn’t seem like the ideal scenario, but in certain packages it can be because he’s able to do damage downhill. Ingram can be used as a blitzing defender, doing damage against slower interior blockers because of his elite quickness and explosiveness.
While he would be playing in a two-point stance in the Chargers 3-4 front, he’s unlikely to spend as much time doing so in their 4-3 front. If Ingram was to play in a two point stance in the Chargers four-man front, he’d likely be a weak-side linebacker. The reason for this is because he would be protected up front by the under tackle (3-technique), which is beneficial for him because he has shorter arms and thus has a more difficult time stacking and shedding blockers.
However, it’s likely that when the defense goes to a four-man front on passing downs, as they did last season, Ingram will spend the majority of his snaps as a 5-technique defensive end or a 3-technique under tackle, with most of his damage coming from the interior role as it did in college.
This is was seen against Clemson last season, when Ingram lined up on the interior across from the left guard.
He proved to be too quick-handed for the blocker, as he was able to gain the leverage advantage and force the blocker to lunge at him.
Once he was able to execute an arm over move to get past the blocker, he had a clear path to the quarterback and the blocker was unable to slow him down because Ingram had gained leverage.
Ingram as a 3-technique in San Diego would pose the same problems for blockers in the NFL because they also struggle while dealing with rushers that have explosive first steps. Ingram is able to jolt blockers back at the point of attack, consequently establishing a new line of scrimmage and then working his way into the pocket with his speed, dangerous quickness or power.
I expect Ingram to be very dangerous for the Chargers if they use him correctly. He’s not the type of player who’s likely to succeed in simply one role, and instead he should be moved around like a chess piece in order to create mismatches for the defense.