For a squad that hails from Southern California in a league where offense has been the predominant theme for the past handful of seasons, the San Diego Chargers are now officially a defensive team. From the influx of young talent on the defensive side of the football to the club’s continual decline on offense, San Diego is team that focuses primarily on preventing their opponents from scoring rather than accumulating points themselves. While it’s true you have to score to win, the 2013 Bolts will try to say “yeah, but just one more point than your opponent.”
Both the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers showed that this philosophy can still win championships in an offensive league. The Chargers should be excited about their transition from a team that had to outscore its opponent or end up losing to a club that can make the crucial stop in a one possession game on defense. Each defensive level on the team features some extraordinary, young talent and that is how this club has successfully transformed.
On the defensive line for the final month of the season in 2012, fans were given a preview to the future of the team in the trenches. Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas, and Kendall Reyes came up huge down the stretch and they are 22, 26, and 23 years of age respectively. That is an impressive trio all in their early to mid-20s that will be the basis of defensive success in San Diego for the better part of the next decade.
The linebacker level still has to prove itself, but it has some impressive young potential as well. Obviously inside backer Donald Butler doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone at just 24 years of age coming off of his second consecutive impressive campaign. Last year’s first round pick Melvin Ingram though needs to mature over the offseason and really show that he can provide that explosive edge rush on a consistent basis. He also must become a three-down player with the ability to stay on the field in all situations.
In the secondary, safety Eric Weddle is the headliner, but the other spots are all in flux. Many expect Brandon Taylor to challenge for the starting spot opposite Weddle this season. He has loads of potential and would bring a big hitting presence back to the middle of the field. On the corners, both Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are free agents and at least one if not both are expected to be gone. That could mean even more youth thrust into starting roles with Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright next on the depth chart. Both have shown flashes of starter potential, but each has their own weaknesses that must improve if growing pains are to be completely avoided.
This team may not be one that can outscore you in a shootout anymore, but the Bolts of 2013 would rather just outscore you. That mentality will serve them well in the upcoming season as this young club continues to improve on defense and mature as a unit capable of developing into one of the top defenses in the NFL over the next few years.