Statistics for individual defensive linemen in a 3-4 alignment usually don’t flash off of the page. The primary job of the guys in the trenches on defense in the 3-4 is to occupy blockers and free up linebackers to make plays in space. These types of assignments often go overlooked by the casual fan, but the San Diego Chargers have one of the top budding young linemen in the entire league heading into the 2013 season that shouldn’t go unnoticed for long.
Corey Liuget put up some impressive statistics considering his position during his second year in the league as he compiled seven total sacks, including a four-week stretch from weeks 13 to 16 where he put up four of those QB takedowns. His promising 2012 campaign was enough for ESPN to rank Liuget the best D-lineman in the AFC West heading into this upcoming season. There really are several reasons why Liuget is only scratching the surface of his potential looking ahead to 2013.
The surrounding cast features solid players with Liuget in the trenches in Cam Thomas at nose tackle and Kendall Reyes on the opposite end. Reyes is only entering his second season, but he showed some dominant flashes as rookie including a 3.5 sack performance against the New York Jets. These guys will help Liuget to get to the quarterback and have success in his role with the team by requiring offensive lines to give them enough attention or suffer the consequences.
Something else working in Liuget’s favor heading into 2013 is the fact that he has reportedly trimmed down a bit for the upcoming season. He has dropped eight pounds coming into this season at a trim 296 and is looking far more explosive in offseason workouts. Given his success already and the praise that he has been receiving around the league, Liuget could soon be considered in the same breath as fellow 2011 draft class member J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
Even though the Bolts underwent a serious makeover from the front office to the coaching staff this offseason, defensive coordinator John Pagano remains and brings some continuity to a unit that ranked in the top 10 last season. His ability to get the most out of his players will continue to push Liuget to new heights along with the guys around him. Double-digit sack numbers seem like a foregone conclusion for the former member of the Illinois Fighting Illini.
When Liuget was being scouted coming into the draft in 2011, most considered him best suited to play in the 4-3 as a tackle. The Chargers surprised many by taking him for their 3-4 look, but it has clearly worked out quite well for both parties. This season will be the year that Liuget puts his name on the national radar as one of the most dominant defenders in all of the NFL.