Dec 22, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Kendall Reyes (91) before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 26-13.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will Kendall Reyes Bounce Back In 2014?

Dec 22, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Kendall Reyes (91) before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 26-13.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of our commenters on here (Julien Belair) asked me to write an article about what happened to Kendall Reyes this season. It’s always hard for me to write an article about why a player didn’t meet expectations. Especially if I happen to think he is a talented player, which I feel Reyes is. However, some fans have been wondering what the reason for his sudden drop in production was caused by. There are a few things that come to mind, when I look back on his performance.

There was an obvious drop-off in talent when Aubrayo Franklin signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, and Cam Thomas stepped in at the nose tackle position. Also, Pagano didn’t always seem to play Reyes to his strengths. But, was that the entire reason, or was Reyes going through the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”? Perhaps it is a combination of all three factors. I have even seen one or two people suggest that Reyes might be a bust. I am not of that belief, but let’s take a closer look at his 2013 campaign, and we can all make our own decisions from there.

Let’s start out with some positives for the young man, before we dive into the details of this season. Reyes played in all sixteen games in 2012, and eighteen in 2013. For a team that is constantly sustaining major injuries which send guys to the IR, that has to be acknowledged. His strengths are his quickness off of the line, and being disruptive in the backfield on passing downs. Reyes isn’t built to put up a ton of sacks. He actually totaled half a sack less than he did last year, with more playing time. But, what I did like to see is that they were spread out over more games. Reyes had 3.5 sacks in one game against the Jets last season, when backup QB Greg McElroy almost got killed by our pass rush. Reyes had his best game this season when he had 3 solo tackles, 2 assists, and a sack. Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about.

There were some fairly lofty expectations for our DE’s coming into the season, and both of them were very pedestrian in 2013. There was even some talk from the media that Liuget was going to raise his level of play even more; possibly to elite status. Even though Liuget fell short of these expectations, he still had more of an impact on the field than Reyes did. Liuget had just a half sack more, but he beat out Reyes in every important category. He also added a blocked kick, and a forced fumble on top of that. So if you thought that Liuget was average (or below) this season, then you are probably concerned about Reyes.

One of Reyes’ biggest problems this season is that he disappeared for entire games. This may have been a result of other circumstances, but you can’t overlook the facts. In road losses against Oakland & Miami, Reyes failed to even show up on the stat sheet. He also disappeared in our road win against Denver, even though we pulled out the win there. If Reyes is going to continue to start, he can’t go missing for an entire game, no matter who is holding down the nose tackle position. If he is having another game where he fails to be disruptive, or even make a single tackle, then it’s time to put someone else in there immediately.

Another question would be was Pagano using Reyes to his strengths this season? I have my concerns that Pagano is sometimes forcing a circle into a square. We saw a little bit of that with the defensive backs, when he routinely played them 10 yards off of the receiver for two thirds of the season. The same can be applied to Kendall Reyes. Is he really that good at defending against the run? It sure didn’t look like it from where I was sitting. Not having a capable nose tackle definitely didn’t help. But, is he even that good at defending it to begin with? The answer is no. He is a big boy, but he isn’t really a factor against the run. But, for whatever reason, he remains on the field during running plays. Even if we get a nose tackle that can draw double teams to help our DE’s do what they do, Pagano needs to stop asking them to do what they DON’T do. That is half the battle right there.

If I had to define Reyes’ role on this defense, I would say that it should be “somewhat” rotational. There is this little voice inside of me that says he shouldn’t be asked to play so many snaps, even if we get a nose tackle. He’s quick enough to cause trouble if you line him up properly, but we should look at getting some solid depth at the position. The Chargers should handle it like they should handle Ryan Mathews. Get him some help, cut down his snaps a little bit, but name him as the main starter.

Something else to take into consideration is that Reyes played in a 4-3 defense coming out of college, so he was already working on getting used to the transition to a 3-4 to begin with (AJ loved to do this, for some reason). I think he can be a good player in this defense, but Pagano has to figure out how to use him more productively. It is almost certain that we get a new nose tackle this season, so we will see how much that helps things. But, if Pagano doesn’t come to terms with the fact that he needs to develop Reyes (and other players) more effectively, then I see only a slight improvements on defense from last year. I hope that this young man is given the opportunity to be the best player he can be, and have a more successful season in 2014.

Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!

Peter Thompson

Will Kendall Reyes Bounce Back This Season?

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  • serg21

    So we Call 3rd rounders bust now a days lol

    • Peter Thompson

      Not me… but, yes.. I have seen people go there. He was a second rounder, by the way. But, yeah… I get where you are coming from.

      • arnie

        It’s not where you take a player, but who you take. A bust can show up in any round.

        • Peter Thompson

          Correct. I don’t really count his time with Norv, either. Not much development going on there. Lol…

          • arnie

            That isn’t true. Norv was a QB guru….

          • Peter Thompson

            Bwahahaha… right? If by “guru” you mean that he can take an already talented Guy out of college, and slowly turn him into a shell of himself with seven step drops.

          • Julien Bélair

            wow you just killed him. I NEVER liked Norv. I think a HC should be a great leader first and give motivation, aggressiveness, etc. The OC is more about scheme and knowing your players strenght. Norv has none of those qualities he is a overrated coach.
            BTW I see Whiz as an OC not a HC for the reasons I just said.

        • Michael

          You are correct, remember that QB they picked infront of PManning,,, he was kind of a bust,,,,,, then he got busted,,,,,

    • Julien Bélair

      he is an early second rounder budday

    • micah

      Second round.

  • arnie

    Peter I’m right there. See i can’t throw Reyes under the bus without understanding the context. There are question marks all over he defense. Pagano is one, and aj picks are the other.

    • Peter Thompson

      You can’t throw? I might have to leave the ole’ pig skin at home for the Bolt Beat BBQ’s next season then.. don’t want to hit any cars.. or innocent bystanders ; )

      • BoltNative

        Peter, if this question about Reyes “stopping the run” and how Pagano uses him in defensively this year isn’t resolved during preseason and the season, then maybe McCoy should pull Pagano aside to “re-think” his approach. It’s time Pagano steps back and put people in positions where they can succeed whether those players like it or not. Pagano will be under quite the microscope this season and we’ll see if he truly has the bona fides to be an NFL defensive coordinator that doesn’t do the same unsuccessful things over an over expecting different results e.g., his blitz packages that were ineffectual a lot of the time. Given health issues, he seems to have a defense with much more potential this year.

  • Julien Bélair

    First thank you for the article I think we should talk about him and you did a nice job to put the big picture in front of us.

    I think we can say that the drop off in Liuget play is because of the NT position. Liuget was double teamed a lot this season and I accept the drop off because of that. But Liuget wasn’t pushed around in the running game, Reyes was.

    What I understand after I read your article is that Reyes doesn’t have a real strength. Pagano maybe use him so much so Reyes can develop because right now he is not really good to rush the passer and he is below average in the running game.

    So I agree with your conclusion, we should use him as a rotational/starter player so he doesn’t disappear.
    Next year will be his third year and we all know what it means. Maybe we should rotate him with Lissemore next year?? So he could be fresh when he steps on the field…

    • Peter Thompson

      I was thinking Lawrence Guy. He didn’t get nearly as many snaps as I thought he should have. He seemed to make plays every time he was on the field.

      • Julien Bélair

        Good point he was surprising! So Liuget, Reyes, Lissemore and Guy. Not bad, not great but a lot of potentiel

        • Trey P

          Im sighn up for another DE seems like we need just one mo player at every position on D but weddles and they Need to Let Freeney and Ingram play with their hands in the ground. Have you seen Ingrams film in college!!!!!

          • Julien Bélair

            I want us to switch to a 4-3 but I know it won’t happen

  • Padraigh Keogh

    Don’t mean to go off topic but… Does anyone know how good Inman is? Signed him after Toronto in CFL released him so he could join NFL. Is a wide receiver 6′ 3”, 207lbs. They gave him a signing bonus too..

    • Gunnar Martin

      He’s not too shabby. Has some skill. But not really someone you put any real expectations on (yet). They just gave him a futures contract, so it’s not a big deal.

  • Nick Mansoor

    I like Reyes, I really do. But I think it’s his lack of development that is holding him back from being great.

  • Gunnar Martin

    Get the man a new nose tackle!

  • ECAVILLE/Ace of Spades

    The last few games after the Cincy loss showed me that Pagano still has the capability of doing his job correctly. Reyes was not used correctly and it wasn’t till Butler really started calling out his fellow teammates that the D started performing better. I believe this is going to carry forward to next season. Still question marks acer the board but I expect an improvement. That how I see it anyways. BOLTASTIC!

  • Sergio Quintero

    He’s at his best as one gap penetrator, not as hold up 2 gap player, to put it simple he plays better when you expect him to pass rush like say Warren Sapp, than hold offensive lineman at the point like the classic 3 tech DE the steelers use (Brett Keisel classic example). Pagano seems more enamored with his scheme, than the best use of Reyes/Liuget.

    Pagano would be best served to have a run defense DLineman: Guy/Lissemore/Thomas, and replace them with a pass rush with one gap responsabilities in Liuget/Reyes in pass downs.

    • Peter Thompson

      Exactly! You get exactly what I am talking about, Sergio. Reyes has strengths.. Pagano just asks him to do what he isn’t good at. He tries to make the scheme fit them. It just doesn’t.

      • Sergio Quintero

        He played his best when Lissemore was installed as the starter, not that he played with him, but that he seemed to get snap count down and was used more with the nickel defense.

  • C.Steele

    I think Reyes problems stem for the scheme. Yes he will improve next year because of experience. However, as an every down 3-4DE he will never reach his potential, even with a great NT. It seems our front 7 starters are split between being suite to play the 4-3 and 3-4. Until TT can rectify this problem, our whole defense will continue to struggle…. Thanks AJ!

    #Go Bolts!

    • Peter Thompson

      Great comments. You are right.

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