Recently, there has been a lot of excitement from fans over Dwight “spin-move” Freeney signing with the San Diego Chargers. Freeney is a BIG upgrade to a unit that was set to roll into the 2013 season with Larry English at the starting OLB position. The Chargers fanbase is, most definitely, hoping that English can be the first round talent that he was drafted to be. However, it was clear to TT, and just about everybody out there, that English comes with a great deal of injury concerns, and has not been able to strut his stuff on the field for a number of reasons. English will be given the opportunity to show what he’s got this year, even with the arrival of Dwight Freeney. He is still young enough to be the future of this Chargers pass rushing crew, along with Melvin Ingram. He just needs to show that these last few years have been a string of bad luck. Hopefully, with new strength & conditioning, and a pro-bowl caliber veteran like Freeney to learn from, English can finally make that jump to starting NFL pass rusher. This will probably be his last chance to prove this.. especially with a slew of newly acquired young talent being drafted behind him this year. The competition will be fierce, to say the least.
In this article, I wanted to take a look at the other players along the line, that could have a more explosive year. Players that have shown promise, and/or come on strong recently. These will be the guys that get sacks when the outside is being tied up. Guys who will be coming through the middle, the right, the left, or whatever other direction. These players won’t rack up the sacks that the OLB’s will, but they can overpower guys straight up, or take advantage of the situation when Freeney gets double-teamed (which he most certainly will). Let’s begin.
Cam Thomas: I put Cam first, because a lot of people were expecting to see a starting caliber nose tackle taken in the first few rounds of the draft. The fact that Tom Telesco didn’t draft one, until the undrafted free agents rolled out, was a HUGE vote of confidence in Cam’s direction. It also means that Pagano must have some faith that Thomas can be the starter. He has LARGE competition to fend off, with Geathers & Jerideau, so he will have to prove that experience will prevail over size. Cam hasn’t started in many games, but when he has, he shows the ability to get after the quarterback, and introduce them to the turf! Playing behind Aubrayo Franklin in 2012, he didn’t get much opportunity to register even one sack. However, the year before he posted 4 sacks, and two in 2010. So, the potential is there. I am looking for big things from this front 3 this year, and Cam has some pretty tough hombres lining up next to him, who aren’t too shabby themselves. With his contract being up in 2014, he has an opportunity to secure his spot on this team for years to come. He just needs to play well.
Corey Liuget: After having a disappointing rookie season, Corey Liuget came on like gangbusters in 2012! He was getting some pretty nice sacks out there, against tough competition. He made his presence known on the field, and had a big impact, while posting seven sacks! Along with Drew Brees (picture posted above), Liuget has added Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Brandon Weeden to his QB sack list. That’s the entire AFC North, which is one of the NFL’s best divisions, and known for keeping their QB’s upright! We may not have won 3 out of 4 of those games, but Liuget was definitely making an effort to tip the scales in our direction. He even had TWO QB take-downs in that sack-fest against the Jets! He is certainly showing that picking him up in the first round back in 2011, wasn’t another AJ mistake. I am looking forward to a big year from him.
Kendall Reyes: A second round draft pick in the 2012 draft, Kendal Reyes had 5.5 sacks in his debut. When he was on the field, he could often be seen in the backfield making big plays, stuffing runs, disrupting the QB, and generally making things tough for the opposing team. He had 2 sacks in our final game with Denver, and was beasting out even more than Liuget was against the Jets with a whopping 3.5 sacks! Not bad at all, for his rookie season. Despite the excitement surrounding first round pick Melvin Ingram, Reyes was the most effective player from his draft class. This year, he will be the uncontested starting DE (in my opinion), as Tom Telesco moves forward with his “youth movement”. Here’s to an even better sophomore campaign!
Jarret Johnson: Yes, I said Jarret Johnson. I find it odd that an outside linebacker would even be on this list… yet, here he is. Not that anyone expected Double J to be heading up the sack list.. but, 1.5 sacks is pretty bad.. even for a run-stuffer like Johnson. Agreed, he was mostly on the field during run plays, but it would be REALLY nice to see a little bit more production out of him in that area. This team is already thin at the OLB position, and are going to need all the help they can, to get the sack numbers up. For the money we are paying him, and the fact that he is a starter, I would like to see him somewhere around the 3 to 4 sack range this year…. in addition to the run support numbers he puts up. Tom Telesco & Mike McCoy are most certainly going to be keeping an eye on this stat. Sack stats can often be overrated… but 1.5 sacks? Seriously? You could accidentally get 1.5 sacks, just by being pushed on top of the QB! My grandma could put those numbers up! Even Eric Weddle had one sack, and he is nowhere near as close to the QB as JJ is. Hopefully, he can apply a lot more pressure than that in 2013. Otherwise… we need to move on. Sorry.
So, there are my thoughts on where who I would like to see make QB’s run for their lives, besides the obvious pass rushers. I didn’t cover the new guys, as we haven’t even seen a pad practice, or a preseason game yet. Maybe I will write that article a little later on. What do you think? Which of these players do you think will have good performances in 2013? Are there other players you expect to see get after the quarterback more? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!