The San Diego Chargers struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush last season. They ranked tied for fifth worst in the NFL with 35 sacks last year. Compare that to the Carolina Panthers who led the league with 60.
The Chargers made it a point to upgrade the pass rush in free agency and in the draft, but some of the names on the roster might not be so recognizable.
When addressing the linebackers the Chargers added another weapon to the group in the draft. San Diego traded up seven spots to grab outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu. He offers great speed and athleticism off the edge and should provide immediate impact rushing the passer.
There are also a couple of guys who were hurt most of last year – Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney. Ingram came on at the end of the year to give the Chargers’ defense a huge boost heading into the playoffs. While Freeney’s age might hinder him from being the game-changer he once was, his experience and leadership should help tremendously in Ingram and Attaochu’s development.
Jarret Johnson should also provide a veteran presence that will help the Chargers’ younger linebackers. These two veterans (Freeney, Johnson) will take pressure away from Ingram and Attaochu from having to be ‘the guys’ to carry the pass rush.
One player I was very impressed with last season was Reggie Walker. While being a backup the past four years for the Arizona Cardinals, he really took advantage of his opportunities when players went down with San Diego. He finished the season with 36 tackles and three sacks, both career highs. He will be a backup once again this year, but his versatility and production will only help the Chargers.
On the defensive line, Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have been consistent the past two years with five or more sacks each in both seasons.
The player I’m most intrigued by is Cordarro Law. For those who don’t know who this is, Law finished a highly productive career at Southern Mississippi two years ago with 192 tackles, 54 for loss, 28 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. He ended up going undrafted and signed with the Seattle Seahawks only to be cut after the preseason.
Law then went up north to play for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. Last season he broke out with 44 tackles and 14 sacks. He’s still only 25 years old and should be hungry to prove he belongs in the NFL.
The biggest nemesis for San Diego’s pass rush this season will be the injury bug. If they can stay healthy, the combination of veterans and youth could develop into a legitimate top-10 pass rush.