COSTA MESA — Melvin Ingram is ostensibly the Chargers’ weak-side defensive end. After three games, that’s clearly an incomplete job description.
Ingram has played 155 snaps in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense, one that required him to move from outside linebacker to “LEO” – the edge rusher responsible for attacking the quarterback’s blind side. But on any given play, the former first-round pick could be in a different spot, a different stance.
“He can play multiple positions,” Bradley said. “Some guys are really good edge rushers, but you put him inside and they’re not as effective. But he has traits on the outside, on the inside. … He is unique that way.
“I’m not sure I’ve been around somebody who has all that type of skill set.”
Through three weeks, Ingram ranks second in the league with 5.5 sacks, one behind Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. His three sacks against Kansas City this past Sunday was the highest single-game total by a Charger in nearly five years. Only nine times in franchise history has a player racked up more in one day.
Those numbers alone don’t fully capture Ingram’s versatility.
The Chargers frequently flip him with fellow pass rusher Joey Bosa, flipping them back and forth on opposite sides of the defense. On some plays, they’ll even line up next to each other. This tactic led to one of Ingram’s three sacks in Week 3. Late in the third quarter at StubHub Center, Ingram and Bosa criss-crossed toward the quarterback – with the latter taking on both the tight end and the right tackle.
That freed up Ingram to wrap around the edge, gaining a clear path to pull quarterback Alex Smith down from behind.
On other plays, Ingram is the one drawing extra blockers. In a season-opening loss to Miami, he essentially created an easy sack for teammate Chris McCain – fighting through a holding penalty and bumping into quarterback Trevor Siemian just before McCain dropped him. Of the Chargers’ 11 sacks this season, Ingram has been on the field for all but two.
Even though the Chargers are one of just five winless teams in the NFL, Ingram’s work was enough to earn him a nod as AFC Defensive Player of the Month, a career first. If his sustains this level of play for a few more months – or even something close to it – he’ll be looking at his first Pro Bowl.
It’s early, but the $42 million that the Chargers guaranteed Ingram this summer? That might turn out to be a steal.
“He deserves it,…