The San Diego Chargers chose former Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Corey Liuget in round one of the 2011 NFL Draft. San Diego chose former Connecticut Huskies DT Kendall Reyes in round two of last year’s draft. Liuget and Reyes were converted to defensive ends and are poised to be a dynamic duo in 2013.
Liuget struggled in his first season when he made 13 starts and only had one sack, but he ranked second on San Diego with seven sacks in 2012. Reyes started in only four of San Diego’s 16 games last year, but ranked third on the team with 5.5 sacks.
Former Indianapolis Colts DE/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney had five sacks last year, but played most of the season with a high ankle sprain. Freeney was also converted from DE to OLB for the first time in his career. Freeney is capable of returning to form, but I believe that Liuget and Reyes will lead San Diego in sacks. The last time that defensive linemen ranked first and second on San Diego’s roster in sacks happened in 2003 when DeQuincy Scott and Adrian Dingle combined for 12.5 sacks.
San Diego ranked 11th in the NFL with 38 sacks last year. Their secondary will consist of mostly new players in the starting lineup, so putting pressure on quarterbacks could be vital to the success of the defense.
Liuget started 12 games alongside Vaughn Martin at DE in 2012. Martin had one sack in these starts which took little-to-no pressure away from Liuget and the rest of that defense. This should not be a problem in 2013 because Reyes proved that he was a factor as a pass rusher in eight fewer starts last year.
Liuget and Reyes combined for 12.5 sacks last year, and I expect them to be closer to 15-20 this season, which will greatly improve the defense’s success.