Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus recently ranked the defensive front sevens of all 32 NFL teams. Much like their opinion of the Chargers' offensive line, Pro Football Focus is not at all impressed with San Diego's defensive line and linebackers. This isn't particularly shocking. We all know how bad the interior of the Chargers' defense was for most of the 2015 season.
Anyway, here is what Ben had to say about the Chargers front seven heading into 2016:
The Chargers’ defensive line was a disaster last season, with only Corey Liuget’s run defense offering any crumb of comfort for a unit that couldn’t affect opposing offenses against the run or pass. The spark of optimism for the Chargers, outside of first-round pick Joey Bosa (Ohio State), comes off the ball, where a healthy Melvin Ingram proved his ability with a fine season as a pass-rusher opposite the impressive Jerry Attaochu. Paired with Denzel Perryman’s impressive rookie season as a run defender, the Chargers have some pieces in place for improvement in their front-seven this season but there is still a big disparity between the best and worst players in their defensive front.
Calling a defensive line that asked Sean Lissemore to play nose tackle and Kendall Reyes to play professional football a "disaster" is borderline charitable. Stockwell, like all PFF writers, is again dismissive toward the ability of the Chargers' best defensive lineman Liuget. Given the acknowledgement of how bad the players he shared the line with were, you'd think there would be some understanding that he was the only player opposing offenses had to concern themselves with, but that horse is long since dead and no additional flogging will bring it back.
Joey Bosa will provide the defense with an incredible jump in talent at a position where they previously had Reyes. They recognize this fact but fail to note the equally large jump from last year's nose tackle, hole in zone, to this year's, Brandon Mebane. The changes the entire complexion of the defense from what it was (terrible) to what it will be (at the very least competent).
Denzel Perryman's breakout is noted, but the removal of tumor #56 is glossed over completely. The additions of Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown to compete with Manti Te'o are also not deemed worthy of mention. That's a significant oversight for several reasons. They bring a physicality and an athleticism that was badly lacking next to Perryman and inside linebacker is now a position of depth rather than one where Donald Butler's corpse will be expected to play the majority of snaps.
Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu both earn praise, but Kyle Emanuel also looks like he should contribute on passing downs in 2016. He's barely recognizable from the rookie out of North Dakota State that we saw last year. His progress should be exciting.
Make no mistake, last year's front seven was insanely awful, but this year's should be at worst a net positive. What do you think? Is Stockwell right? Am I (of all people) overly optimistic?