ESPN has listed off each team's "biggest needs" following the 2012 NFL Draft and Free Agency. For the San Diego Chargers, it's good news and bad news. The good news is that, in picking the defensive line, it proves the Chargers roster is strong at every position. The bad news is that they might be right about the defensive line.
Here's the ESPN Insider article I'm talking about, and here's a chunk of what was written by Tom Gower:
If Liuget shows off the skills that made him a first-rounder, Castillo plays to his pre-injury form and Reyes has a better rookie year than Liuget did, this could be a much-improved group. However, that is an awful lot of ifs.
Let's tackle these statements one at a time.
- "If Liuget shows off the skills that made him a first-rounder" - There's no reason to think that Corey Liuget won't have a fine 2nd season. One of the main reasons Greg Manusky was fired was his mishandling of Liuget's skills. Liuget got better as the season went along (According to ProFootballFocus, 4 of Liuget's 5 best games came in the last 6 weeks of the season). Most 3-4 defensive linemen don't start producing until their 2nd season. Everything points to this "if" happening.
- "Castillo plays to his pre-injury form" - Again, I don't know why Luis Castillo wouldn't be able to handle this. He returned from major injuries in 2006 and 2007 to be a very good player from 2008-2010 (averaging 15 games played per season). Despite the fact that he's seemingly been with the Chargers forever, don't forget that Castillo is just 28 years old and will be 29 by time the season starts. There should be plenty of gas left in his tank.
- "Reyes has a better rookie year than Liuget did" - This one seems the silliest to me. Corey Liuget was by no means a bad player in 2011. Gower says that Corey "rarely made an impact" and that the team had hoped for more from their rookie DE last year. I'll agree with that, but Kendall Reyes isn't expected to start and therefore would probably make the team happy if he could produce consistently like Liuget did last year. The team isn't going to pin their hopes on their 4th best DE being an impact player in his rookie season, nor do think they need him to.
Now, all of that being said....Gower is still sort of right. If Liuget, Castillo and Reyes were to play poorly, the defensive line would suffer. They're key parts of John Pagano's plan to stop the run and push the pocket. However, expecting anything less from Liuget and Castillo than what they've been able to do in the past seems awfully pessimistic.