The San Diego Chargers chose former Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Corey Liuget with the 18th pick in round one of the 2011 NFL Draft. Liuget had seven sacks and nine passes defended, which ranked second on San Diego’s roster in both categories last season.
San Diego ranked 23rd in the NFL with 32 sacks in Liuget’s rookie season when he started 13 games and recorded one sack. However, San Diego ranked 11th in the league with 38 sacks in 2012 including seven from Liuget.
Liuget started all 16 games in 2012 and looked impressive in his second season at DE. San Diego will need him to continue to trend in the right direction to help their pass rush.
Shaun Phillips led San Diego with 9.5 sacks last year and ranked first or second on San Diego’s roster in sacks eight times in the previous nine seasons. San Diego lost Phillips in free agency to the Denver Broncos and brought in former Indianapolis Colts defensive end/linebacker Dwight Freeney to replace him.
Freeney made the switch from DE to LB last year and had one of his worst seasons in the NFL. Freeney’s sack total has declined in the last three seasons, which makes Liuget the key for San Diego’s pass rush.
San Diego ranked 12th in the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed, but added three new starters to the secondary. So putting heat on quarterbacks will take pressure away from them if they are awful in coverage.
Liuget came on strong at the end of last year when he recorded five of his seven sacks in the second half of the season. Liuget lost almost 10 pounds during the offseason, which should add more explosiveness to his pass rushing abilities and help him lead the charge for San Diego’s pass rushers in 2013.