One could easily make the case that the San Diego Chargers’ strongest area on their entire depth chart is the defensive line. The team has invested early round picks in the line frequently in recent years giving them quite an assemblage of talent all across their 3-4 front. While all three starters in the trenches are quite formidable players with potential to make plays on any given snap, Corey Liuget is the one name that has the most potential heading into the 2013 season.
The media fawned over J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans last season for his remarkable display of defensive ability. While Watt is certainly worthy of praise, Liuget also hails from that draft class of 2011 and had an impressive season in his own right. Watt has been known for swatting down passes at the line of scrimmage, but a little known fact is that Liuget actually finished second among all defensive linemen in the NFL to Watt in that category. His nine deflections were well behind Watt’s 16, but he is still quite a disruptive force for a team that relied on its linebackers to generate pass rush.
As for this season, the loss of Melvin Ingram at rush outside linebacker certainly put a dent on the expectations for sacks in 2013. Even though veteran Dwight Freeney was signed to take his place, the defensive line may be called upon to pick up some of the slack when it comes to taking the opposing quarterback to the turf. Liuget is definitely a leading candidate to aid that cause.
According to U-T San Diego, Liuget has dropped eight pounds entering the upcoming season with his playing weight now at 296. The Bolts DE commented on the difference saying:
“Way more explosive. I already feel it out there on the football field.”
Defensive line coach Don Johnson also had some thoughts of Liuget’s look coming into the 2013 campaign as he said:
“It’s based on his footwork and him getting off the ball. He definitely looks a lot more explosive.”
Well then. The Bolts have themselves a more explosive player who already finished second in the league in terms of deflected passes a year ago. This really could be the recipe for some big things in San Diego. Liuget recognized his success of a year ago but also acknowledged that he wants to improve again in 2013 as he said:
“Overall, (2012) was a heck of a season for me as an individual. We as a team, it wasn’t as good, and I’m not proud of it. But as far as individual, I will take it. I definitely want to use that this year as a stepping stone. Stand on that and get better this year and do better and hopefully make the Pro Bowl, help my team get to the Super Bowl and win it. I just want to help our team get better.”
This defensive line is still extremely young with Liuget entering year three, Kendall Reyes heading into his second season, and Cam Thomas as the elder statesman entering his fourth season still at just 26 years of age. There is potential for a breakout year from any of these three players, but Liuget appears primed to make his presence known on a national level. He may have been taken seven picks after J.J. Watt in the 2011 draft, but Liuget has aspirations to be just as dominant this coming season.