Chargers rookie Drue Tranquill tackles more responsibility at linebacker
The adjustments required for the transition from college to the NFL always will be significant.
Sometimes, they’re pretty simplistic, as well.
Rookie Drue Tranquill already has lost as many games with the Chargers as he did during his final two seasons at Notre Dame.
He has gone from 22-4 to 2-4.
“I think you can win with talent alone in college,” Tranquill said. “You can play a really just crappy game and then end up coming out with a victory just because you have better players. That doesn’t work in the NFL.”
In just the past two weeks, the Chargers lost to 0-4 Denver and 1-4 Pittsburgh at home. They’ve now dropped four of five and are beginning a stretch during which they play in Carson only once over their next seven games.
On Sunday night, Tranquill played 31 defensive snaps, one more than he previously had played all season.
He was needed in part because of an ankle injury to Denzel Perryman. But he also has earned more time because of his performance and ability to play both in the middle and on the weak side.
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Tranquill finished the 24-17 loss to the Steelers with four combined tackles, including one for loss. He also remains one of the Chargers’ most valuable players on special teams.
“He’s a young linebacker, but he knows what he’s doing,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “He plays fast … I like what he’s doing in there at linebacker.”
Then, after watching Tranquill for only six NFL games, Lynn continued, “He wasn’t perfect [Sunday], but he’s going to be a good linebacker in this league for years, I can tell you that.”
Asked Wednesday about that assessment, Tranquill said: “When you hear those words from somebody who’s done it, it means more. I respect coach Lynn as a person. He’s kind of like a father figure in the sense that he gives you a lot of tough love when you come in. It’s not super, super friendly, but it’s not like, ‘I can’t talk to you.’
“He’s been really encouraging my first few weeks and months. He’s taken time on multiple occasions to ask about me personally and how my wife and baby are doing. That means a lot.”
Tranquill, who was taken in the fourth round, is emerging as the most productive member of the Chargers’ 2019 draft class.
First-round pick Jerry Tillery has established himself in the team’s defensive line rotation, though he remains clearly behind Justin Jones. Safety Nasir Adderley has been limited by a hamstring injury that has hobbled the second-round pick for months.
“I was concerned early, but, I mean, I got other things on my plate now,” Lynn said when asked about Adderley’s inability to stay healthy. “When Nas is ready, he’s ready.”
Adderley missed another practice Wednesday. He has appeared in four games, with the majority of his action coming on special teams.
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Asked if this might turn into the NFL equivalent of a red-shirt season for Adderley, Lynn said, “I sure didn’t plan on it being a red-shirt year, but it’s kinda looking like it.”
The Chargers’ other four draft picks from April — offensive lineman Trey Pipkins, third round; quarterback Easton Stick, fifth round; linebacker Emeke Egbule, sixth round, and defensive tackle Cortez Broughton, seventh round — have yet to make significant game-day contributions.
Okung could practice
Left tackle Russell Okung, who remains on the non-football illness list, is eligible to begin practicing this week after missing the required first six weeks of the season.
Lynn, calling the situation “day-to-day from here on out,” said Okung wasn’t ready to return Wednesday but, when asked if the offensive lineman could be back this week, answered “absolutely.”
Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots in June. His treatment has included blood thinners, which must clear his system before he can resume his career.
“This stuff will play itself out over the next couple days, I believe,” Lynn said. “But right now, I just don’t have an update for you.”
Defensive end Melvin Ingram (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday after being limited in practice at the end last week. He has missed the past two games.
Jones (shoulder) and fellow defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (knee) also didn’t practice. Both were new additions to the Chargers’ injury report.
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Wide receiver Travis Benjamin (quadriceps) and running back Justin Jackson (calf) were held out.
Left tackle Trent Scott (ankle) and kicker Michael Badgley (groin) were limited. Badgley hasn’t played this season but is moving closer to returning. Lynn said he expected Badgley to kick during practice Thursday.
In a series of practice squad moves, the Chargers signed tight end Stephen Anderson, running back Derrick Gore and center Cole Toner, placed running back Detrez Newsome on the injured list and released offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis.
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