San Diego Chargers Season Preview Part II: Defensive Front Seven

Michael CallahamContributor IISeptember 2, 2011

San Diego Chargers Season Preview Part II: Defensive Front Seven

0 of 3

     

    There may be more question marks about the Chargers' front seven than anywhere else on the team. Despite ranking first in yards allowed in 2010, and second in sacks with 47, the defense got pushed around far too much when it counted, and struggled to apply pressure on the opposing quarterback when needed.

    Chargers defenders know they were handed too many short fields from turnovers on offense and special teams breakdowns to take too much pride in that No. 1 ranking.Veteran off-season addition Takeo Spikes is an upgrade at RILB that should help matters. OLB Travis LaBoy, who has been very productive when healthy, should provide outstanding depth at outside linebacker.

    There have been some very encouraging signs from some of the Chargers key developmental players during the preseason. First round pick Corey Liuget and third-year project Vaughn Martin have been particularly impressive. Second-year player Donald Butler, is learning on the job and has been holding his own for the most part. But it remains to be seen whether or not the very young core of the Chargers defense is ready to take that next step, and whether Greg Manusky, the Chargers new defensive coordinator, can mold them into a cohesive unit.

Chargers 2011 Preview: Outside Linebacker

1 of 3

     

    The right side is set with grossly underrated ROLB Shaun Phillips getting the nod.

    Philips has been as consistent and productive as anyone could ask, averaging over nine sacks per year since 2006, and having missed only four games in 112 starts over a seven-year career. .

    The left side is where things start to get a little shaky. LOLB Laboy has shown he can be productive on the outside, but has spent far too much time on the PUP list during his career to be depended upon for an entire season.

    Now entering his fourth year as a pro, OLB Larry English, who should start on the outside opposite Phillips, has yet to warrant being drafted where and when he was.

    English doesn't need to make anyone forget about Shawne Merriman, but he needs to be more consistent in order to justify taking him in the first round of the NFL Draft.

    Undrafted free agent rookie Daryl Gamble has seen a ton of playing time during the preseason, which does not bode well for English, who knows the time to justify the investment made in him is now.

San Diego Chargers 2011 Team Preview: Inside Linebacker

2 of 3

    While not yet dominant, the Chargers' defensive line is deep, talented and has the potential to be great in 2011. Veteran starters LDE Louis Castillo, DT Antonio Garay, and RDE Jacques Cesaire are serviceable veterans good enough to start for any team in the league. However, none are game changers.

    The Chargers defensive front-seven, as it stands, is too good to be considered a weak spot but it's still not what it once was prior to the departure of DT Jamal Williams. His ability to consistently command and break double—even triple-teams—allowed the rest of the defense to run down hill in a way it hasn't been able to since.

    What the Chargers do have along the defensive line are some rather intriguing prospects.

    Along with the their first round selection in this year's Draft, Corey Liuget—for whom expectations have been quite high—youngsters Cam Thomas, and Vaughn Martin have all of the physical tools required to dominate in the league.

    If any one of these three players can take the next step and earn the kind of respect that only an automatic double team can, the 2011 Chargers defense could turn out to be scary-good

Chargers 2011 Preseason Preview: Defensive Line

3 of 3

     

    The defensive line is deep and talented, but not yet dominant.

    Veteran starters LDE Louis Castillo, DT Antonio Garay, and RDE Jacques Cesaire are serviceable veterans good enough to start for any team in the league. However, none are game changers.

    The Chargers defensive front-seven, as it stands, is too good to be considered a weak spot but it's still not what it once was prior to the departure of DT Jamal Williams. His ability to consistently command and break double, even triple-teams allowed the rest of the defense to run down hill in a way it hasn't been able to since.

    What the Chargers do have along the defensive line are some rather intriguing prospects. Along with the Chargers' first round selection in this years' NFL Draft, Corey Liuget, for whom expectations have been quite high, youngsters Cam Thomas, and Vaughn Martin have all of the physical tools they need to dominate. If any one of these three players can take the next step and earn the kind of respect that only an automatic double team can, the 2011 Chargers defense could turn out to be scary good.