The San Diego Chargers have a defense that is young and inexperienced. They aren’t looked at as a premier defense in the NFL, but last season they were successful to a certain extent. They won’t have some of their previous key players such as Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer, but they added some new talent as well. Here are the five impact starters for the Charger defense for the upcoming season.
Eric Weddle is the best player on this defense. He led the team last year with 97 tackles (19 more then the next best). As free safety, he keeps an eye on the entire defense and usually leads the team with interceptions. He is respected around the league as one of the top safeties and respected on his team as a leader of the defense. His play this year will be instrumental in the secondary because of the inexperience of the other defensive backs.
Although in the past he has not been a Pro Bowl player, expect that level of play from Corey Liuget this season. He is now the best player on the young defensive line and has been improving very quickly throughout his career. He is only going to get better this season and will have to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback for the Bolts to be a contender this season. His job is to not only sack the quarterback, but also lead the Charger defensive line to be one of the best in the AFC.
Last season, Donald Butler was a workhorse for San Diego. He was third on the team in total tackles behind Weddle and Takeo Spikes, but after Spikes left the team this offseason, Butler now steps up to the number two tackler on defense. Shaun Phillips, previous starting outside linebacker, left the team as well, so Butler’s role in the linebacker core is even larger. Additionally, Butler now has to be a mentor for Manti Te’o so Te’o’s performance will be a reflection of Butler as well.
Derek Cox is as above average cornerback, but he is no star. Although on this Charger defense, he might need to be. The Chargers’ secondary is the biggest weakness for the defense, and while Weddle may be a stud, he can’t defend every pass. Derek Cox will have to step up and make big plays for the team to even stand a chance against teams like the Broncos, Patriots, and Texans. One side note with Cox; he is known as an injury prone player who could become a major loss if he misses many games this season.
The fifth spot is tough to name for this defensive unit. The truth is, the Chargers don’t have a fifth player that can create a huge impact on the defense. For this reason I choose Manti Te’o as the fifth impact player this year. As it is his first season in the NFL, he is not expected to be an impact player and many second round picks don’t even play that much as rookies. However, Te’o will be forced into a starter role, which me may actually excel at. Some NFL experts have already named him as a front-runner for defensive rookie of the year as his playing style is similar to Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers (winner of the award last year).