From 2005 through 2008, the Chargers drafted a grand total of one defensive lineman, 7th round pick Chase Page who is no longer in the NFL. Funny thing is, BOLTHYPE has listed Defensive Tackle as a draft need for the Chargers for the past few years, knowing the lease on a healthy Jamal Williams could expire at any moment. Unfortunately, the Chargers are now feeling the devastating effects that losing their only nose tackle does to their 3-4 defense.
(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)
CHARGERS PROBLEMS START WITH THEIR DOTTED LINE
Aside from drafting Luis Castillo in 2005, the Chargers made virtually no effort to bolster their defensive line with high-quality depth. The 2009 draft class saw the arrival of fourth round pick Vaughn Martin, who, coming from Canadian college is full of promise, but considered a long-term project.
The point I am trying to arrive at is the Chargers' philosophy seemed to be one of spending high picks on their perimeter players and rely on undrafted players to develop into contributors along the defensive and offensive lines. They've spent premier picks to bolster their secondary, wide receiver corps, and linebackers, yet here we sit today and the Chargers have struggled where it matters most, in the interior. It's along the offensive and defensive lines where the bulk of the Chargers' problems lie, and the domino effect of shaky play in the trenches is felt across the entire team.
Whether it's not getting enough sacks, giving up too many yards on the ground, or allowing too many completions on third down, the Chargers, defensively, wont be effective unless their front three can dominate at the line of scrimmage.
On that same note, the Chargers' offensive line won't be able to stop their Quarterback from getting roughed up unless they are allowed to punish opposing teams. They won't be able to establish a rhythm in the run game unless they can wear down defenses. They'll continue to be called a soft team unless they put some tough guys onto the field and prove they are physical and overwhelming.
IF YOU CAN'T DRAFT THEM, TRADE FOR THEM?
Premier 3-4 Nose Tackles rarely become available in the free agent market, and the really good ones are gobbled up quickly in the draft. The Chargers, to their credit, never really had a shot at a nose tackle at their draft slots. But they also didn't move up to draft one either.
The most recent example would be the 2009 draft, where Ron Brace lasted until pick 40 when the New England Patriots snatched him up. The Patriots, who already have former first rounder Vince Wilfork on their roster, are prepared for life without their Pro Bowl nose tackle. Ron Brace, a stellar player at Boston College, has the rare size and strength combo that 3-4 teams need on the middle of their D-line. BOLTHYPE interviewed Ron Brace leading up to the draft, and he confirmed that the Chargers had interest in him. Unfortunately the Bolts did not make a move to acquire the mountain of a man. However, I'm willing to bet the Patriots would let Brace go if presented with a tantalizing offer. New England has shown time after time that no player is untouchable. Heck, they'd probably even let Tom Brady go for the right price!
The Chargers should consider trading for Ron Brace. Young and already signed to a very palatable contract, Brace could be the Chargers nose tackle of the future.
The Baltimore Ravens have always had a stout defense, and a big reason why is their commitment to drafting quality linemen early and often. Haloti Ngata was the Ravens' first round pick in 2006, and he has developed into arguably the best nose tackle in the National Football League. Ngata is signed through 2010, but he'll likely command large salary requirements as a free agent. The Ravens are rumored to be in the market for a wide receiver, and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe is a name that keeps popping up. The Chargers are well stocked at receiver, and could potentially move one of them. Both Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson are playing the last year of their respective contracts; are they potential trade bait?
The Chargers should strongly consider trading for Haloti Ngata. Ngata is a dominant force and would instantly upgrade the entire defense. He is under contract for 2009 and 2010, and should the Chargers re-sign him down the road, it'd be money well spent.
What's your take? Does AJ Smith and his scouting department still have the midas touch? Or should they consider trading draft picks for proven players? The trade dealine is fast approaching - should the Chargers make a splash or are you confidant in the Chargers' current depth? Drop a comment below and let us know what direction you'd like the San Diego Chargers to go in.
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