The San Diego Chargers chose former Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Corey Liuget with the 18th pick in round one of the 2011 NFL Draft. Liuget struggled in his rookie season when he had one sack in 15 games, which included 13 starts at DT/right defensive end.
Liuget showed big-time improvement in his second season when he had seven sacks, which was tied for 14th in the AFC. Liuget started 12 games at RDE with Vaughn Martin at LDE. Martin had one sack in 12 starts, which took little to no pressure away from Liuget on the defensive line.
Kendall Reyes had 5.5 sacks last season and will replace Martin, who signed with the Miami Dolphins fourth months ago. Reyes will take pressure away from Liuget, which should create a dynamic pass rush.
Liuget’s jump from one to seven sacks makes me believe that he will continue to improve and make the Pro Bowl in 2013. Liuget ranked second on San Diego’s roster in sacks last year after being tied for eighth in 2011. He was also tied for 116th in the AFC with one sack as a rookie, but ranked 14th last season.
San Diego was tied for 23rd in the NFL with 32 sacks in 2011, but was tied for 11th in the league with 38 in 2012. This was due in part to Liuget’s improvement as a pass rusher. Shaun Phillips led San Diego with 9.5 sacks last year, but he signed with the Denver Broncos, which arguably makes Liuget San Diego’s best pass rusher.
I would like to see Liuget get off to a faster start because he had two sacks in the first half of last season. Liuget was 4.5 sacks shy of ranking in the top-five in the AFC last year, and I believe a stronger start to the season will lead to him reaching double-digits in sacks this season.