Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
More than half of the 2013 defensive starters for the Chargers—the nose guard, two of the four linebackers and three of the four defensive backs—are new starters for San Diego.
John Pagano returns as defensive coordinator, but counting on a rookie (Manti Te’o) and a 33-year old veteran (Dwight Freeney) at the linebacker position could either be a great blending of youth and experience or a disaster waiting to happen.
Only Eric Weddle returns in the secondary. Free agent Derek Cox will lock down one cornerback position while Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright, who sat behind last year’s starters Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, will assume starting roles at safety and the corner opposite Cox, respectively.
Defensive ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes are garnering attention as two of the better young defensive linemen in the NFL. Liuget is entering his third year and Reyes his second; the Chargers are hoping both will continue to develop into a formidable pair.
The middle of the defensive line will be handed over to Cam Thomas and whichever undrafted free agent(s) make the roster. The four-year veteran Thomas has only five career starts, all with San Diego.
The new defense may feature younger players, but it is uncertain if this new blood is better than the old.
If the Chargers hope to return to the success that resulted in four straight AFC West titles (2006-2009), the defense may have to step up and win games while the offense settles into position.