Getting Better - Defensive Line

In the BoltHype 'Getting Better' feature, the staff will take an in-depth look at the different units among the team to determine areas in the Chargers' game where improvement would be welcome. For example, in today's feature BoltHype will break down the defensive line and will highlight areas that the staff would like to see increased production.

Ask anyone who follows the NFL who has the best 3-4 defensive line and you will usually get one of two answers; the San Diego Chargers or the New England Patriots.

The Patriots have had a top D-line unit for years now, and in many ways were the prototype that teams around the league tried to emulate. If you were a defensive coordinator looking for players to run a 34 defensive scheme with, then you were going to look for a 330+ lbs nose guard who commands double teams and collapses the pocket from the middle. You would need two defensive ends over 6 feet tall and 300 lbs strong. Those guys would need to provide some pressure on the QB, seal the edges off of the line of scrimmage to shut down sweeps, pitches, etc., and of course they need to keep those linebackers clean by occupying blockers.

Luis Castillo, Jamal Williams, and Igor Olshansky combine to make for one of the most formidable defensive line units in the NFL, and arguably the league's most talented 3-4 unit. While the Patriots line is still among the elite units, the emergence of Jamal Williams as the best nose guard in the game, and the skyrocketing potential of Luis Castillo at defensive end, has placed the Chargers D-line at or around the top of the heap.

However, there are areas where the D-line could improve. Looking at the New England Patriots unit in comparison to the Chargers, there are some interesting statistics that pop out to me:

New England Patriots - 6th Overall Defense, 5th Run, 12th Pass, 5th Sacks

  • Ty Warren - 84 Tackles, 7.5 Sacks, 4 Pass Def (15 Games)
  • Vince Wilfork - 50 Tackles, 1 Sacks, 1 Pass Def (13 Games)
  • Richard Seymour - 40 Tackles, 4 Sacks, 7 Pass Def (16 Games)

San Diego Chargers - 10th Overall Defense, 7th Run, 13th Pass, 1st Sacks

  • Luis Castillo - 37 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 0 Pass Def (10 Games)
  • Jamal Williams - 69 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 2 Pass Def (16 Games)
  • Igor Olshansky - 33 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Def (13 Games)

Between the two units, many similarities exist. Both teams feature top defenses where stopping the run is a focus and where getting after the Quarterback is important to success in defending the pass. But an often overlooked aspect in the job of a defensive lineman is getting those big paws into the air and batting down passes. This is one area where the Patriots out-rank the Chargers by a wide margin.

Certainly things such as philosophy (the Chargers D-line loves to attack and slant whereas the Patriots will move around less and have more two-gap responsibilities) and games played will skew statistical results. But while the Chargers barely managed three passes defended in the entire season, the Patriots racked up twelve!

Richard Seymour is the benchmark for 3-4 defensive ends, and he was among the top 3 defensive linemen in the NFL at Passes Defended. There is no denying that Seymour is an elite player, in my opinion Luis Castillo is pushing him as the cream of the crop of Defensive Ends. Castillo only played in 10 games last season, so we need to see a full season from him to see what he is truly capable of. But for Castillo to take that next step, I'd like to see him make more plays when a sack or tackle is not available for him. I want to see him bat down those passes a bit more. And as for Igor, the guy is 6'6" and needs to get his hands up and negate some pass plays. As tall as he is, it'd be nice to see him make big plays like that and give our linebackers and opportunity to get some more interceptions.

So the BoltHype staff hopes the Chargers Defensive line is 'Getting Better' at putting those big paws up in the air and helping out the pass defense by knocking down those balls.

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July 15, 2007

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