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Did the San Diego Chargers Improve Their Defensive Line?

Much of the key components of the Chargers Defensive Line remain unchanged from 2012. Did enough change on the line to improve them overall?

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Some would argue that the Defensive Line is the most important unit on the field. The Defensive Line is your first line of defense, they set the tone of the team's defense. If the line can generate pressure on the passer, or shut down any semblance of a run game, then that makes things much easier for the other defenders.

The Chargers' defensive front was actually one of the better aspects of the 2012 team. And as such, the unit from 2012 remains relatively intact heading into 2013, with just a few changes. Did these changes improve the unit? Let's take a look.

2012 In Review

PFF Ratings
Player 2012 Play Count Run Defense Pass Rush Overall
Corey Liuget 733 5.0 6.1 11.5
Kendall Reyes 547 -2.5 3.8 3.9
Vaughn Martin 474 -2.5 -8.6 -12.8
Cam Thomas 404 -1.7 5.7 4.5
Aubrayo Franklin 285 6.8 -2 5.4
Antonio Garay 151 -1.2 5.5 3.1
Damik Scafe 14 -0.5 0.5 0.0

The first thing that jumps out to me — excepting Vaughn Martin — is just how much the Defensive Line was an asset last year and not a liability. I know they were pretty good, but it's nice to see at least one of the lines on the Chargers doing well last year. What I also find impressive is how last year's 2nd–round pick — Kendall Reyes — played the second–most snaps of all the defensive linemen; and he did so by a wide margin.

If the Defensive Line had a weakness last year, it was against the run, and I think anybody who spent much time watching the Chargers play last year would agree with that. While the linebackers had trouble generating pressure on opposing QBs last year, the Defensive Line was overall good at generating a pass rush.

2013 Chargers Defensive Line

No Player Pos. Size Age Experience School
71 Logan Harrell DE 6'2", 280lb 23 1 Fresno State
94 Corey Liuget DE 6'2", 300lb 23 3 Illinois
98 Jamarkus McFarland DE 6'2", 305lb 22 R Oklahoma
73 Brandon Moore DE 6'5", 317lb 22 R Texas
91 Kendall Reyes DE 6'4", 300lb 23 2 Connecticut
75 Damik Scafe DE 6'2", 300lb 25 1 Boston College
99 Jarius Wynn DE 6'3", 285lb 26 5 Georgia
95 Kwame Geathers DT 6'6", 335lb 22 R Georgia
68 Byron Jerideau DT 6'1", 334lb 24 R South Carolina
92 Cam Thomas DT 6'4", 330lb 26 4 North Carolina

Logan Harrell may not be a name you recognize, but he spent 12 weeks on the Chargers' Practice Squad last year. So he wasn't a new pickup this year. Jarius Wynn is the only Free Agent lineman picked up by the Chargers this year. That's not to say they didn't add to the unit as they also picked up 4 rookies this year; all of them undrafted.

Interestingly, the team only has 3 Tackles listed on the roster, compared to 7 Defensive Ends. Cam Thomas is pretty much a lock at Nose Tackle for 2013, but with Garay and Franklin leaving the team, there was literally no depth behind him. Kwame Geathers appears to be the favorite to win the backup NT spot, but we'll see how that shakes out in camp.

Given the performance of the current veterans last year, it'll be very difficult for any of the new guys to push out Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas or Kendall Reyes from their starting gigs.

Verdict: Push

Last year's starting line looks to be improved a bit, if for no other reason than the removal of Vaughn Martin. However, with the loss of Antonio Garay, the Chargers have no proven backup behind Cam Thomas. So, two steps forward, and two steps back. Assuming he makes it out of camp, look for Jarius Wynn to be in on obvious passing downs, which will play to his strengths. That doesn't really do anything to shore up the run blocking. I guess we can only assume there's a bit of Faith & Arrogance™ on the part of the coaching staff that the Defensive Line will improve by virtue of another year working together. Or at the very least, not get any worse.

Are you more optimistic about this line? More pessimistic? Let us know in the comments.