May is usually filled with failed attempts to make predictions about depth charts, and justifying why you should care about Chad Henne. But nearly every year there’s at least one significant injury during OTAs. Something pops, or tears, or breaks, or just bends in a direction that goes against its intended design.
That happened to Melvin Ingram Tuesday (the tearing part), as the Chargers second-year pass rusher tore his ACL, which almost certainly ends his 2013 season. We don’t cheer the fall of a man around these parts, but we wouldn’t be degenerate gamblers and fantasy folk if we didn’t explore to see how Ingram’s injury will benefit opposing quarterbacks, and particularly one within the Chargers’ division.
The Chargers recorded 38 sacks last year, which gave them a decent and mid pack-ish overall pass rush (tied for 11th) by the standard of the main metric we use to judge those who rush the passer: sacks. While pressuring the quarterback is nice and often quite effective, the reason elite defensive ends and outside linebackers make a lot more money than us peons is because they’re paid to bring bodies to the floor.
Unfortunately, there’s now a gaping and horrifying hole in San Diego’s front seven.
The Chargers let Shaun Phillips walk, and he signed with Denver. He’s the same Shaun Phillips who accounted for 9.5 of those 38 sacks. The 100 Yards and Running abacus indicates that’s a sturdy 25 percent of the team’s 2012 sack total. Although the Chargers pursued Phillips as interest in his services grew during the second wave of free agency, their reasoning for letting him walk and not matching a meager one-year commitment at $1 million (his Broncos contract) was presumably one of principle. Regardless of the money — or lack thereof — why pay an aging 32-year-old anything when he’s just going to block the development of Ingram, your first-round pick from last year?
Welp, now what? Despair, depression, etc.
Ingram was expected to be Phillips, which is why the Chargers are now scrambling, and that could end in a life line being thrown in Dwight Freeney’s direction. He’s older than Phillips, there are more questions about his durability after he was robbed of his signature edge burst last year, and he’s coming off a season with only five sacks.
Little is encouraging about any of this, except if you’re a guy who’s going to draft a quarterback set to chuck against these Chargers next year. Mostly, if that guy’s name is Peyton Manning, your face should be pretty smiley since he plays for a divisional opponent who will see the Chargers twice.
Manning doesn’t need help to be really good at being a quarterback. But when he faces little pressure, more Manning awesomeness usually follows. He had four games — a quarter of the regular-season schedule — last year when he was sacked three or more times, and here’s what happened in those games:
- There were six games when his passer rating fell below 100.0. Four came in the games in question here against the Falcons, Texans, Chargers (!!!), and Raiders.
- They also featured five of his 11 interceptions….
- …and three of the four games when his yards per pass attempt fell below 7.0.
His average fantasy points per game during those four games finished at 15.5, a few notches below his overall average on the season (19 points weekly). What’s even better is that one of the two meetings between the Chargers and Broncos in 2013 comes during fantasy semi-final week (Week 15), when the gap in fantasy points between a pressured Manning and a chillin’ Manning is that much more significant.
The other potentially delicious quarterback fantasy matchups involving the pass-rush starved Chargers come against Michael Vick if we assume he’s the Eagles’ starter (Week 2), Tony Romo (Week 4), Robert Griffin III (Week 9), and Eli Manning (Week 14). But it’s Manning’s two likely pleasant Sundays in the pocket which come down the stretch (weeks 10 and 15) that could be especially profitable.