The San Diego Chargers ranked ninth in the NFL in fewest yards per play allowed in 2012. Despite this success, San Diego has seven players who will enter the season as starters for the first time with the team.
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason started at cornerback with San Diego from 2010-2012, but they signed with new teams and will be replaced by Derek Cox and Shareece Wright. Cox spent four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and battled injuries at times while Wright was San Diego’s third round pick in 2011.
Former Green Bay Packers strong safety Atari Bigby started 11 games with San Diego last season before suffering a groin injury and being placed on injured reserve. Bigby was released this year and 2011 second round pick Marcus Gilchrist will make the switch from CB to SS.
San Diego released Takeo Spikes this year and 2013 second round pick Manti Te’o will replace him at inside linebacker. Melvin Ingram was expected to start at outside linebacker in his second season, but he tore his ACL and Dwight Freeney will replace him in 2013.
Vaughn Martin started 27 of San Diego’s 32 games over the last two seasons at DE but only combined for two sacks in 2011 and 2012. Kendall Reyes will replace Martin who left as a free agent. Reyes had 5.5 sacks in four starts during his rookie season and should be an upgrade over Martin.
Aubrayo Franklin was San Diego’s primary starter at nose tackle in 2012, but he signed with the Indianapolis Colts so Cam Thomas will get the chance to start. Franklin will be missed the most due to Thomas’ inexperience and the Chargers’ lack of depth at defensive tackle/NT.
San Diego ranked third in fewest yards per rushing attempt allowed last year. Corey Liuget and Reyes are defensive ends, but they were DTs in college which could help their penetration against the run. Jarret Johnson is not known as a pass rusher, but should be able to help stop the run along with Donald Butler and Te’o.
The Lighting Bolts ranked 12th in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed due mostly to their pass rush putting pressure on quarterbacks and All-Pro free safety Eric Weddle.
I expect San Diego to have similar success against the run, but stopping the pass could be a challenge.