As time goes by, the NFL changes. It's easy to see how things have changed on offense, with most offenses moving away from the running game and focusing on throwing the ball. However, things have been changing on the defensive side as well.
For all of my whining about the team not having a Nose Tackle, I have also noticed that the NT position has been dying around the NFL. The best defensive linemen, the guys that used to be playing Nose Tackle, are now playing DE. Haloti Ngata, J.J. Watt, the league's best defensive lineman are lining up at DE in 3-4 and that's one of the reasons Corey Liuget has never moved.
Unlike Larry English, we've actually seen what Corey Liuget can do. He went from "okay" in his rookie season to downright dominant in his second. In 2012, Liuget had 7 sacks, 33 tackles, and 20 QB Hurries. He was great against both the run and the pass. If the Chargers could get that from him every year, they'd be very happy.
Unfortunately, Liuget looked to be playing injured last season. He would have a great game here or there, but he wasn't as consistent as he had been the year before. That's why it made sense that he had major shoulder surgery just a few weeks after the NFL Playoffs ended.
Importance to the Chargers
Corey may not play Nose Tackle in the center of the line, but he could if the team wanted him to. Instead, it's more important for him to stay at DE where he can contribute more than just taking up blockers. He is the most important guy on line for San Diego, because he's the most talented and most dangerous guy that offenses need to keep an eye on. His presence on one side of the field can also help dictate what opposing offenses, forcing them to gameplan to go the other way.
He may be lining up in a different position than Jamal Williams did, but when the team is in their 3-4 base, Corey is every bit as important as big Jamal was. Quite often, the performance of the defense in any given game is a direct result of Liuget's performance on the line. If he has a bad day, it makes it much harder for the guys around him. If he has a good day, it makes it much easier.
Now, factor in the depth. When you look at the depth chart that Max and I made up after predicting this year's 53 man roster, you'll probably notice the only DE on the bench is Lawrence Guy. There are two reasons for that. One, Sean Lissemore can also play DE. Two, there's nobody that can replace Liuget long-term. If he were to have a catastrophicinjury early in the season, John Pagano would likely switch to a 4-3 full-time rather than try to replace his best defensive lineman.
When a team would literally have to change the way they do business if one certain player were injured, that's the definition of valuable. Here's to hoping Liuget's shoulder holds up.