Filling Needs In Both Free Agency And Via The NFL Draft

One of the most basic building blocks of a successful 3-4 defensive alignment is a solid nose tackle to control the line of scrimmage and blow up running plays by opponents geared toward dictating the pace of the game. The San Diego Chargers believe that they have solidified that position for at least the next two seasons after inking their man on the nose, Antonio Garay, to a two-year contract late last week.

The last two seasons for Garay with the Bolts have been impressive as he has accumulated 105 tackles in addition to eight sacks. Still the production for Garay is not seen in the numbers as he is the man responsible for occupying blockers and keeping those players from impeding his fellow defenders when they are trying to make tackles. His ability to do just that is what makes him such a valuable resource for the defense as they try to improve in 2012.

For a player who began his NFL career as a sixth round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, Garay has certainly made the most of his stay in San Diego. After catching on with the team in 2009 mainly for depth purposes following his dismissal from the New York Jets’ practice squad, Garay played a small role that season. His real emergence came in 2010 when he racked up 48 tackles with 5.5 sacks to lead all Charger defensive linemen. He backed that up with a strong performance in 2011 and has now become an essential piece of the defensive puzzle.

Still there are question marks about Garay that linger as he will be 33 years of age when the 2012 season starts and he did begin to look worn down in the latter half of last year. The fatigue factor will need to be monitored closely as the Bolts need to make sure they rotate their defensive front to keep everyone fresh and productive. In order to maintain his level of play, Garay needs to remain fatigue free as he thrives on applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks and disrupting plays in the backfield.

That rotation could be greatly helped if the team is able to re-sign veteran Luis Castillo who has reportedly been offered a contract by the Bolts in recent days. Castillo’s entire 2011 campaign was derailed by injury when he broke his leg in the season opener. Injuries have plagued Castillo’s career in San Diego, but when he has been able to remain healthy, the former Northwestern product has been a really productive player.

In switching gears a bit from defense to offense, another Chargers’ veteran has reportedly been offered the opportunity to stay with the club. Fullback Jacob Hester was given an offer by the Bolts to keep him in town and he should be considered a very important player at this point given Mike Tolbert’s departure to the Carolina Panthers. With Ryan Mathews’ durability questions still lingering, the Chargers must make sure that they are deep enough to endure the bumps and bruises of a sixteen game NFL schedule. The team did sign fullback Le’Ron McClain to a three-year deal which may make Hester a bit more expendable, but his do anything, Jack of all trades mentality is what makes him valuable to the Bolts and would be nice to keep.

The team may not have many glaring needs remaining given General Manager A.J. Smith’s spending spree in free agency at this point, but it appears that pass rusher and safety will be the main focus in the draft. In a mock draft that I took part in with the guys over at Bleed Green, in representing the Chargers the team was able to address both needs in that procedure.

The full results from that mock draft can be seen here, but the Chargers via my selections were able to land pass rusher Courtney Upshaw with the 18th pick and safety Harrison Smith in the second round. I made the choice to trade down out of the third round in order to pick up an extra 4th, 5th, and 6th round pick in 2012. Results like these in a few months would go a long way in solidifying the Chargers’ status as true contenders not only this coming season, but for many years to come.

Now it is your turn to be heard! What do you think of the team’s decision to bring back nose tackle Antonio Garay? Do you believe that Luis Castillo will be back with the team this year or will he move on? Is there room for Jacob Hester on the 2012 roster or would he be a superfluous signing? What do you think of the results I managed to secure for the Chargers in the mock draft with Bleed Green? Do you believe that GM Smith will go in a similar direction and do you think picks like these will help the team in the coming season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

April 3, 2012

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RaiderHater said... Apr 3, 2012, 8:48:00 AM seem on your game today...I like, no am very pleased, we signed Garay!  He is a solid player, consistent and a key to stability on the D-Line. At 33 he will get "winded" and needs to be rotated regularly.  Both to keep him fresh and "on the hunt" as well as allowing others to "learn on the job" so we have a replacement when he retires in a couple of years.  As far as Castillo, he was always so-so to me, sometimes showing some progress and sometimes nothing.  Since he spent a year off in rehab, perhaps he will come back with a vengeance??  I would hope he signs with us, I can't imagine he is "prime meat" to many other teams?  And Hester, well he always seemed too small for his position, but darn it if he isn't a blue collar player all around.  He is solid on special Teams, and while small...can block incoming threats (though not for long). He can catch, and a decent runner as well...add him in with several combinations and he could be left alone to do some damage in the open. He would be a solid re-sign for us just because he can do alot in multuple roles good...not great...just good.  But that is very valuable to a Team who has had a rash of injuries the past 2 years like I haven't ever seen before.  The draft, well I love the idea of getting some D...if there is an opportunity to get a stud OL/OT though, before say Upshaw, AJ will buy the OL/OT first.  I can't disagree, I prefer we focus on the Defense now all the way, but we remain thin on the O-Line so you can't pass up a solid fit if he is still there when we pick.  The draft is coming on sooooo soon, got to plan my time off for this.  Then camps start...I hope the hell Norv has some sense of urgency to his coaching (opps I called him a coach - sorry) and game playing this year.  A slow start this year could spell disaster for us with the improvements of the other Teams in the West. 

Jjamesnaz said... Apr 3, 2012, 10:44:00 AM

I love the fact that they brought Garay back. We need an established player to rotate with Cam Thomas until he is ready to take over the starting job. I imagine that Hester and Castillo will both be back, because they aren't really the type of players that are going to draw a lot of interest from other teams. I think your mock draft picks were dead-on. I would consider Nick Perry instead of Upshaw because he is a better pass rusher (a thing that we've been lacking the past few years), but Upshaw is a really solid OLB. I think the defense needs to be addressed before we look at O-line. I'm pretty happy with the line we have in place. They worked well together at the end of last year. Of course Clary could be upgraded, but the front office is happy with him for whatever reason, so I don't see it happening.  I think some O-line depth will be added later in the draft

Pete Spinning said... Apr 3, 2012, 1:00:00 PM

RaiderHater - You always get first comment, I swear you must have "spidey-sense" or something!

I am glad we signed Garay. He's not spectacular, but we don't need to lose anymore players right now. There are enough question marks for the 2012 season, and that would be one more position we would have to address in the draft. Along with JJ, we may have some good run stuffers here, which would be a nice upgrade from last season. (Remember when we were top of the league at stopping the run a couple years ago?).

It would be nice to keep Hester too. I think he's done a good job, and he would give us another man in the backfield. I guess the big question for the backfield is "Can McClain be a backup RB"? He ran for over 900 yards in Baltimore, but that was years ago. He did spell KC last year. I think he did an average job. But, AJ was still kicking the wheels on Jackie Battle, so does he have confidence in McClain? We will have to see, I guess. Maybe he will do just as good as Tolbert... who knows. Throw Brinkley into that mix, and keep Mathews healthy (conditioning... eh-hem)... and we might be straight with the running game.

As for Upshaw, I have been hearing a lot of concerns voiced about whether he can even make it in the NFL. There was a lot of excitement at first, but he did terrible in the combine, and not much better on his pro-day. The only bright spot for him seems to be that he looks good on tape. Is that something we want to gamble on, seeing that their is such an urgent need to get an OLB who can step up now?

Harrison Smith seems to be holding his draft stock. His combine was good, and I didn't hear any negatives. His pro-day got good reviews too, despite opting out of the bench press & the 40 yard dash. We need a safety badly, and he looks like he'll be able to contribute immediately.

Also, here are the new proposed Bolts uniforms by Nike! YUK!!!!!

RaiderHater said... Apr 4, 2012, 8:31:00 AM gotta be fast like lightning...huh lightning bolt.... uhhh Da' Bolts!
Ha ha...yeah I agree Upshaw was a let down at the 2 events, but past tape shows he has what it takes.  The draft will be interesting for sure and Smith would be, I think, capable of getting on first string pretty fast...IF AJ can snag him.  That is funny that you mentioned conditioning....crap we have never had so many injuries in the past 2 years.  That to me is a result of poor conditioning.  The rules even changed for some positions to lesson the chances of injuries...not for us.  At least this year we get the full program, spring mini camps all the way to preseason.  And we both agree Hester is a keeper...he just seems to be an all around solid player to me.  Again, not great in any one thing, but good in all.  The uniforms...WTF...big deal!  Some fans hate the old powder blues, I personally like them. But I will also agree the dark blues look more "mean and menacing" kinda (and forgive me for this) Raider-like.  The whites are sharp but the white helmets look cheap and odd.  Nike did such a great job, what with that extensive research and creativity in adding a little highlight to the collars - Brilliant!  Such a difference...Wow are they ever the cutting edge!!! NOT!

  You would thin even the famous FBhansen would comment on at least the uniforms?  For that, Norv and AJ weren't a part of....

Pete Spinning said... Apr 4, 2012, 3:25:00 PM

LOL... noooooo... click on the article link I posted, RH! Look at what the artist rendition was... yellow pants and a goofy ass helmet, with yellow slleves!!! I am not sure that they had the balls to put the "artist rendition" uniform into play, but I hope that they aren't EVER thinking about THAT uniform for the future. Hideous! Is that a joke, or what? ... seriously... go to the link!

Pete Spinning said... Apr 4, 2012, 3:28:00 PM

I know it's from 2010, but if they ever thought that was gonna fly... I'm scared for the designers in the future... hahaha!

RaiderHater said... Apr 5, 2012, 12:58:00 PM

 OMG Dude...that is freaking ugly funny!!!  There isn't enough beer in Ralph's to make that look good!  Well...hummm maybe... but naaw no way.....just looking like the 60's with some Jimi Hendrix blasting at the Q :)  Well it seems Nike has hired top line designers from say the poppy farm college district in Southeast Asia or something.  Can you say "hittin' da pipe" or what?  And I thought the Seahawks were tacky...geez!

Pete Spinning said... Apr 5, 2012, 1:12:00 PM

Hahahaha! "Poppy farm college district in SE Asia"? Where do you come up with this stuff, RH?

Seriously, dood..... I don't know what scares me more. Those uniforms, or your past.

Triplook said... Apr 6, 2012, 7:56:00 PM

i think we should grab fletcher cox if he is there

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