The San Diego Chargers improved their pass rush in 2012 after they were tied for 23rd with 32 sacks in 2011. San Diego had 38 sacks last season, which was tied for 11th with the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers.
Former Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips led the team with 9.5 sacks, the fourth time in five seasons that he led them in this category. Phillips ranked first or second on San Diego’s roster in sacks eight times in nine seasons, and is an unrestricted free agent not expected to be re-signed by San Diego’s front office.
San Diego’s pass rush could take a hit if Phillips is not re-signed because he was one of three players on the team with at least five sacks last season and the only linebacker to reach this mark. Donald Butler ranked second among linebackers on San Diego’s roster with three sacks.
San Diego’s defense ranked 12th in the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed, and this was due in part to their pass rush because it gave quarterbacks less time to find open guys. Corey Liuget showed improvements in his second NFL season by going from one to seven sacks at defensive end, while 2012 second-round pick Kendall Reyes ranked third on the team with 5.5 sacks.
Phillips’ value to San Diego was more than just sacks though, because he led the team in forced fumbles five times during his tenure with them. The loss of Phillips means that 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram will have to be more productive in his second season at OLB because veteran Jarret Johnson is not a pass rusher.
I expect Ingram to be more of a factor for San Diego this season with increased playing time and a year of experience, but the impact of losing Phillips could be huge in 2013.