From the much needed change in the front office and on the sidelines to a roster chock-full of young budding talent on both sides of the ball, the San Diego Chargers have plenty to be optimistic about heading into 2013. Arguably the highest need for confidence lies on the defensive side of the ball where the Bolts only figure to have two starters north of 28 years of age. The strength of this unit lies in the trenches, however, and Kendall Reyes figures to be a big reason why for the foreseeable future.
A second round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Reyes was taken with the 49th overall selection when many draftniks believed he belonged in round one. This steal became quite obvious as the year wore on for the Chargers as Reyes seemed to get stronger with the more experience he gained. Through the first nine games of his rookie year, Reyes never totaled more than one tackle in any single game and produced zero sacks. Beginning in Week 11 against the Denver Broncos, however, the then rookie notched 21 total tackles and 5.5 sacks over his last seven games of the 2012 season.
The Chargers are hopeful that the 23 year old can maintain that groove that he found in the latter half of last season and build on it in the coming year. That is definitely an attainable goal as the pieces around Reyes only figure to get stronger as well. Corey Liuget will be entering his third season at the defensive end spot opposite of Reyes while nose tackle Cam Thomas will be moving into year four. These three 20-somethings will be a force for the Chargers at the point of attack in what figures to be a multiple-look defensive scheme in 2013.
Training camp will be a great proving ground for Reyes to reaffirm the confidence that his defensive coordinator John Pagano has in him for the coming season. The team will be looking to see more consistency out of the youngster as his technique seemed to really tighten up as last year progressed.
In a 3-4 defense the ends are usually not the featured players, but the Chargers seem to be shattering that mold with Reyes. His ability to press the pocket and rush up field while still standing his ground at the point of attack is a rarity in the league today. If he continues to develop on the career arc that he experienced a season ago, the sky really is the limit for the former Connecticut Husky.