Lets face it, the 34 defense is in style right now. It seems like there's at least two teams every year switching to the three man front. But it's not an easy switch to make - particularly because you need the right personnel to match the scheme.
When the Chargers brought in Wade Phillips (2004) to transform what was at the time a traditional 43 defense into a 34 defense, they also made it a priority to draft players that would fit this new look. John Butler and AJ Smith went to work drafting players who fit the profile of a 34 defensive player.
They started up front.
The Chargers needed a whole new set of starters on the D-Line and needed to address the first and most important position; the Defensive Tackle. Luckily for them, Jamal Williams, a supplemental draft pick (2nd round) in 1998, was already on the roster. The team felt he could successfully make the transition to nose. Williams, an already talented player, went about the next few seasons getting bigger and stronger to prepare himself for his new role.
Jamal Williams 6'3" 350lbs -
Williams has emerged as the most dominant nose guard in pro football. A two-time pro bowler (2005, 2006) entering his tenth season in the NFL, Jamal Williams is the prototype player for his position. If you are a team trying to establish an elite 3-4 defense, you need a guy like Jamal Williams to line up over your opposition's center and command double teams as he shuts down their middle run game completely.
With such a wide crop of teams running the 34 defense, there is no way Williams would fall to the second half of round 1.
Projected 07 Draft Position: First round, pick 10-15
As the Chargers prepared for their 2004 season, their first year with the new defense, they used the draft to acquire some players who fit their new scheme. With the 35th overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Bolts tabbed Igor Olshansky to come in and start immediately at Defensive End.
Olshanksy was a raw player coming out of college. He was not particularly quick nor did he have a collection of pass rush moves that he used to get to Quarterbacks. But he was incredibly strong and had great size. He would be asked to play a containment role on the right side of the line. 'Shut down the run' was his mantra, and he became one of the league's best at it.
Igor Olshansky 6'6" 300 lbs -
Igor Olshansky has the versatility to play in different defenses. In the 34 defenses, he is a defensive end who can shut down his half of the field on run plays. In 43 defenses, he'd play inside where he would get one-on-one matchups and use his power to collapse the pocket and get a strong push up the middle.
Olshansky is a consistent player who is still growing. He has unmatched work ethic and a nasty attitude desirable for his position. He has the ability to play in 34 or 43 defenses. Depending on the team drafting him he could go anywhere from the second to third rounds and would be a steal.
Projected 07 Draft Position: Second round, pick 33-5
The final piece of the puzzle was getting someone to fill the Left Defensive End position. The Chargers needed a guy with great size and strength to play a 34 End, but they were also looking for more pass rush for their linemen. They were looking for a guy who could attack from the Quarterback's blindside and apply pressure to force errant throws, sacks, and turnovers. They guy they were looking for fell into their laps in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Deemed risky because of an admission of steroid use, Luis Castillo feel to the bottom of the first round were the Chargers were happy to snatch him up. Castillo had done everything and more to convince the Chargers that he was not a gamble. They selected him with the 30th overall pick, and inserted him as a starter immediately.
Luis Castillo 6'3" 300lbs -
Uncannily quick and light on his feet, Luis Castillo from day one displayed great ability to rush the passer from an unorthodox position. 34 defensive ends aren't expected to sack the QB as much as Luis Castillo does, but that is just a testament to his work ethic and passion for the game. A rising star in the NFL, he'll earn a few Pro Bowl berths before his time is up.
Castillo is another player who has the ability to play in different fronts, but he has certainly made his mark on the NFL as a LDE, and more specifically made his presence felt to Quarterbacks across the league.
Projected 07 Draft Position: First round, pick 15-25
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