Michael Lombardo - Scout.com
June 8, 2005 at 3:29am ET
Seeing as both of the Chargers' starting inside linebackers have seen their thirty-second birthdays go by the wayside, it is safe to say the team is on the lookout for a younger player with the ability to step into one of those starting roles sometime in the near future. While looking for such an individual, the team found Jonathan Pollard, an inside linebacker from Oregon State.
The team signed Pollard as an undrafted free agent, and now he must step up his game if he is going to beat the odds and earn a spot on a roster that is both deep and talented. Mark Banker, Jonathan Pollard 's defensive coordinator at Oregon State , believes Pollard has the ability to not only make the team, but to make an impact as well.
"He's a really strong run player for us because of his size and physicalness," Banker said. "He has the ability to take on a guard coming through the hole, let alone blowing up a lead blocker out of a two-back set."
Pollard never had a problem producing at Oregon State. The six-foot-one, 243 lb. linebacker notched 41 tackles, a sack and 9.5 tackles for a loss. Those numbers may have been even greater had he not missed the final two games of the season with a high ankle sprain.
The 2004 season was the second consecutive year in which Pollard endured such an injury, and he will need to work on avoiding the injury bug if he is going to be successful on the next level.
"He was hobbled by a high ankle sprain each of the last two years, and so he was never able to complete either of his years as a starter," Banker recalled. "That's probably the biggest thing for him is just staying healthy."
If Pollard can indeed stay healthy he may have a better shot at making the team than most people expect. He is a high-character player who has never been in any trouble off of the field, and who has always inspired others on it.
"He's a good person," assured Banker, "somewhat of a quiet guy. He's more of a leader by example."
Even though Banker believes his former pupil will find success on the next level, he knows that Pollard will have to continue working to improve his game if he is going to be able to carry his collegiate dominance over to the professional venue.
"He'll have to play up to the speed of the game," Banker said. "By that I don't mean physically, because he is plenty fast, but just improving his read and react time."
Adjusting to the speed of the game is something all rookies have to do. However, Pollard's nose for the ball and ability to disrupt running lanes should help to separate him from the rest of the undrafted pack. Whether or not that will be enough to earn him a roster spot come August remains to be seen. If nothing else, we know how Coach Banker feels Pollard will do.
As the coach predicted ever so adamantly, "I think he'll be successful."