Defensive Focus For Chargers 2012 Draft Class

The NFL Draft may now be in the proverbial rearview mirror, but the San Diego Chargers are definitely looking forward to seeing what their first round pick Melvin Ingram can provide for their pass rush on the field this coming season. Once thought to be a potential top ten pick, Ingram was somehow still on the board when the Bolts picked at number 18 overall.

The story of the 2012 draft seemed to be the issue of arm length for several pass rushers in this year’s class. Ingram’s arms measured in at just 31.5 inches which is somewhat short for the typical sack artist at the NFL level. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw slid the whole way out of the first round due to similar concerns about his less than ideal length.

Short arms or not, Bolts’ General Manager A.J. Smith was thrilled to see a player of Ingram’s caliber still on the board when his team selected. He offered some of his patented snarky commentary to U-T San Diego when he said: "I think Melvin will have the same problem Tyrannosaurus rex had millions of years ago.”

Having length doesn’t always dictate whether or not a player will have success rushing the passer however as two of the league’s most accomplished sack machines, Tamba Hali and Jared Allen, both have arm lengths similar to Ingram. The ability to make plays on film and excel against the best competition is certainly much more important than any physical attributes and Ingram was a powerhouse doing those things in the SEC while at South Carolina.

GM Smith took part in an interview with CBS Sports and revealed his ultimate strategy surrounding the team’s top selection Ingram. According to Smith: "In our realistic cluster, there was no way Ingram would be there. I thought if there was any activity for pass rushers he surely would be in the mix. I noticed there were a couple of pass rushers that went, and they weren't Ingram, and I would say the excitement started to come at about 16, where the Jets picked. You're thinking with the Jets making a move here, it's got to be Ingram ... or somebody else ... but I think they're going pass rusher. We don't know. We guess like everybody else. But then when they pick the other guy (Quinton Coples), we got awfully excited because we thought there may be a chance.”

It seemed almost too good to be true for most Chargers fans and for the guys in the front office. The fact that the Bolts could land a player of Ingram’s prowess by staying put was beyond the realm of conception heading into the draft, but the team isn’t complaining. GM Smith also said that: "We had a cluster of nine players we were looking at, including three we didn't think would be there, but they weren't mixed. It was all defense.”

What this really says is that the Chargers felt that their main deficiencies and reasons for not performing better in 2011 were on the defensive side of the football. The fact that the team also selected defensive players in rounds two and three only further solidified that thinking.

The pick of Kendall Reyes in the second round was interesting as well with Smith explaining his pick saying: "Again, it was defense, and, when it came our time, here he comes. And now we're looking around the draft room, and saying, 'OK, that's the first guy (Ingram), and now we have Reyes. It's like we're on a roll here. This is the greatest feeling in the world to start off a draft."

Fans had to be feeling the same way watching the draft unfold and even though many expected the Chargers to target a safety early in the draft order, the team had yet to land a partner for Eric Weddle. GM Smith offered his thoughts on that as well saying: "There were some rumors out there that we were prepared to go off after (Alabama safety Mark) Barron and that we had a package -- because I have a history of that going after certain players. But the second part of it was that, if we weren't successful there, that I was going to go down 10 picks and go after (Harrison) Smith of Notre Dame. But that was not the game plan. I wouldn't pay the price for Barron, and I felt Smith would be gone at the end of the first. And, if he didn't, he would be at the top of the second, and you'd have to go up to the second and pay a price to participate in that. So we targeted another safety as the third-best option, and somebody we really liked who was probably not a first rounder.”

This insight led the Chargers to their third straight defensive selection in safety Brandon Taylor who was the consensus third-best safety in the 2012 class. The fact that GM Smith was level-headed about filling a position of need and weighed all of his options carefully has to be encouraging for fans still skeptical of his sometimes brash decision making. Taylor will likely play situationally to begin his career and hopefully develop into a full-time starter by the end of 2012. If he can manage to fulfill those expectations, the Chargers draft class of this year will be one to remember.

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about the questions concerning Melvin Ingram’s lack of length? Do you believe Ingram was a steal for the Chargers or will his less than ideal measurements be a difficult hurdle to overcome in the NFL? How do A.J. Smith’s insights change your perception of the 2012 draft class? Do you see each of the team’s top three picks being major contributors in the coming season or will someone not live up to expectations? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!

May 8, 2012

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Pete Spinning said... May 8, 2012, 11:08:00 AM

I get the feeling that our pass rush is going to be like night and day, compared to last year. I know we have been disappointed with him so far, but I still have my eye on English, to see if he can FINALLY live up to his price. Maybe having Ingram on the team will spark English to be better. With Phillips, Barnes, and Johnson... we have a lot of potential to be an elite group, if everyone can stay on the field.

As for Taylor... you have to be a little excited that we will have some new blood at the position. Steve Gregory never quite made the cut, if you ask me. Atari Bigby will be alongside him to keep the pressure off of Taylor, and Weddle is going to be a heck of a mentor! Weddle covers a lot of space, so he can focus on what he does best, until he gets up to speed in pass coverage.

Reyes is the only one I am sort of uncertain about, but only because I honestly don't know much about him. Can anyone shed light on how good he actually is? I'm not too familiar with his college career.

Fbhansen said... May 8, 2012, 4:14:00 PM

Saying Melvin Ingrams lack of arm length is a weakness is like saying an alligator isn't fast and can't harm you...purely pre-draft BS some analysts use to support why this or that player isn't selected or games played by GM's so the player slips down to a spot they can move up to and get him. He's a stud and hopefully a starter who will change the attitude of this defensive unit! He was an absolute steal in the first round and provided he sees more of the field than he does of the training room he'll be the best thing AJ has done in a LONG time!

AJ was spot on in his draft fear was we'd see the old AJ and he'd deal everything to get Mark Barron or that he'd move down out of the first round and into the early picks of the second to get smith. He did what he almost never does and that's hold his wad and let things come to him versus over spending on a player. This draft was a very safe draft without too much risk picks which is exactly what we should expect out of a GM on the bubble...

"if" the picks don't pan out everyone will have had a hand in the selections made because we all think they were the "right" picks for this team! Only time will tell if our top picks become starters but you have to love how each of them has someone to mentor them into becoming starters and better yet contributors on a team in despirate need of a defensive spark putting fear into our opponents. Because face it allowing the worst conversion rate on third down in the league doesn't actually strike fear in the minds of any of our opponents! Let's go bolts!

RaiderHater said... May 8, 2012, 7:24:00 PM

Oh Hell the alligator theme bro!  Ingrams was a what if he fell to is about freaking time we get a break!  And yes I agree, AJ could have been AJ...but instead he was AJ (of old)....well planned attack and we gave up diddly squat to get who we did.  In fact we have sooooo many players to review (FA and drafts) plus vets from last year....the competition for many positions will be fierce....and that my friend breeds excellence!  Only the best survive and we have some bench in key spots which we desparately need.  I hope we have for real conditioning coachs because we sucked in endurance the past 2 years (injuries from Hell) ...agreed?!  We will actually have a pass rush, did you read the article in the Chargers site..stability in the front ,,,etc... and some for real potential rush from the "back four". My only gripe is the CB....I didn't feel we addressed that yet so we shall see.  On offense...WTF...we have more weapons than we have spots for...damn - that is such a tragety - Ha Ha - NOT!  Mini camps are in...some real deals then pre-season...I am excited as heck to see this shape up....Kool-Aid soon....remember!!??

Fbhansen said... May 8, 2012, 8:10:00 PM

I'll gladly have a glass or two of the kool-aid to see the bolts get deep into the playoffs! My gripe right now is I agree with everything you said my RaiderHater brother but why in the world if we have some depth and competition on the team are we already tossing bodies to the curb?

Today the news reads LaBoy released...why? What if we see Ingram is the real deal a studs stud but he gets hurt in the preseason (I know this never happens to the bolts) wouldn't it be good to have some options? I know I know he didn't show a lot last year but he is one year into the defense (even though there will be some changes) and bringing someone else in always comes with a learning curve...

Pete Spinning said... May 8, 2012, 11:59:00 PM

FB.. It's great to have you back! We'll be wearing kool-aid mustaches soon enough! Raiderhater... your first aligator line killed me!

As for LaBoy... We should release him, and then bring him back at a cheaper price. Like we did with Castillo. Muahahaha!

Why would we do that, though? I think that the Spikes, Manusky, LaBoy deal was a bust.... San Francisco's garbage... Bad Juju. Spikes is a good player, and he works hard on conditioning. But, I think we salvaged what we could out of that situation. I mean, 14 games.. one sack?  LaBoy reminds me of the defensive version of Dombrowski, but more expensive.

Pete Spinning said... May 9, 2012, 12:07:00 AM

Look at Melvin Ingram's death stare & T-Rex arms in that picture. The other two are grinning. Nice shirts BTW!

Fbhansen said... May 9, 2012, 12:53:00 PM

Thanks Pete! Yeah I might have to spike my Kool-aid with some vodka to help it do down but well worth the mustache to get back to dominating our division and into the playoffs!

Never thought of that angle...good call we don't want to overpay for the position if the player isn't what he was at SF!

Bad juju awesome line! Agree with the take and Spikes is a keeper if for no other reason but to teach intensity, conditioning and to show the young guys what it takes to make it in this league!

I'm still pretty certain we'll see a surprise acquisition or two from the scrap heap like we did with Jared Gaither and possibly a FA pick up who turns out to be a player...come on AJ keep the peddle to the metal and let's get this boat turned around! Norv is on notice if you hear Jon Grudden at all he is so far up AJ's ass that he must be working in the background on a deal if Norv falls flat again!

Fbhansen said... May 9, 2012, 12:55:00 PM

Agree again and even in pics Ingram looks like he wants to tackle the camera man and do a dance on his body...those types of players are contagious and needed on our lack luster team!

Pete Spinning said... May 9, 2012, 2:02:00 PM

I hope Gruden is that pro-active! Because if Norv can't do it now, he never will.

RaiderHater said... May 10, 2012, 4:10:00 PM

 Yeah this guy wants the's in his know what he likes his Kool-Aid for??? To wash down delicious freshly eaten QB's....MMMM MMM Good!  And FB likes his with Vodka....that's my kind of mix!  I support Pete on this, LaBoy shoulda been LaByeBye and he results should mean walking papers (if only this rule applied to Norv).  As far as Spikes, he is a solid vet, look at his pre-pre camp work ethics, THAT shows me commitment and that rubs off on others.  Ray Lewis is that kinda guy and Spikes is showing us he is also.  Coaches are there to coach but the real leaders are the guys that take command on the field and as importantly in the  locker.  With a billion new faces coming in, the vets from last year and the incoming vets have to set the pace, show the commitment and dedication to get this year done!  The competition inside camp is gonna be crazy...I freaking love that!  We expect good things, or we expect people to also be handed their "walking papers"...damn I am suddenly thirsty...Silver Bullet anyone?

Pete Spinning said... May 18, 2012, 3:06:00 PM

Also, along with those EYE-POPPING stats LaBoy put up (which were the definition of "Lack-Luster").. he played the most snaps out of anybody.

Lat's summarize.. you played the most snaps... and produced the least out of anyone. Hmmmm... tough decision.... lemme think about it....

SEE YA!!!!!

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