After acquiring Sean Lissemore and Drake Nevis on the eve of the 2013 season, the San Diego Chargers appeared to have the proper depth needed to have a solid rotation along the defensive line. However, following the team’s 31-28 loss to the Houston Texans on Monday night, in which they allowed 24 unanswered second-half points, the Chargers appear to still lack the depth at arguably the most important positions of their 3-4 defense.
Last season, the Chargers relied on rotations to keep their defensive linemen fresh and had the proper depth to do so. However, this offseason, the team decided against re-signing solid veterans Aubrayo Franklin, Antonio Garay and Vaughn Martin and instead decided to bring in younger players for training camp, many of whom had zero NFL experience and didn’t even make the final roster. Now with those players cut, on injured reserve, or on the practice squad, Lissemore and Nevis were brought in last minute to fill the void, but their impact doesn’t look like it will be felt anytime soon.
According to U-T San Diego, Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas saw career highs in snaps on Monday night. In the final 25 minutes of the game – the same time the Chargers began choking their lead away – Reyes saw 30 of his career-high 57 snaps, Thomas saw 32 of his career-high 52 snaps, and Corey Liuget saw 29 of his 57 snaps. Meanwhile, in that same time span, reserves Jarius Wynn played in just 10 snaps while Kwame Geathers saw just six. Lissemore and Nevis didn’t see the field.
While Lissemore and Nevis could eventually provide solid depth and create a good rotation, the fact is they just joined the Chargers a week and a half ago and still need to adapt and learn John Pagano’s defense. Meanwhile, Geathers, a possible stud in the making who helped stuff a run on fourth down, is well… an undrafted rookie who needs time like the others. Remember, Reyes didn’t begin seeing significant playing time until half way through the 2012 season.
A defensive line rotation isn’t the only issue though. Regardless of how talented or well-conditioned a defensive player is or how deep the position is, when the opposing team wins the time of possession battle with a four-to-one ratio to close out the game – like the Texans did – the defense is going to be fatigued. Certainly this happened on Monday night and can be avoided if the offense can figure out a way to even just get one first down per drive.
The Chargers can’t continue their lopsided time split between their linemen and expect consistent production out of their starters. Lissemore, Nevis, Geathers and Wynn will need to quickly learn the defense and develop so that the team can showcase their potentially strong depth.