When the Chargers chose to move on from long time defensive coordinator John Pagano and replace him with Gus Bradley, fans could be sure a new scheme was coming to the defense. That new scheme will have the biggest impact for the players along the defensive line, especially those who need to live up to expectations.
Corey Liuget has been a long time fixture of the Chargers defensive front and is the longest tenured player at his position group. Entering his 7th year in the NFL, Liuget had a 2016 campaign to forget. In sixteen games, Liuget delivered one of his worst seasons as a pro, recording 35 total tackles, three passes defended and zero sacks.
After signing a six-year, $58.219 million deal two years ago, which PFF went on to label as one of the top 5 worst interior DL contracts in the NFL. Liuget was enjoying a sub-par season in 2015, before ending up on injured reserve after just eleven games. In 2016, Liuget received an average grade of 74.8 and ranked as the #50 defensive lineman in the league.
Before joining the NFL, Liuget spent three years in a 4-3 front during his time at Illinois. It was there, that he performed at a level that made the Chargers believe he was worth the 18th overall pick in 2011. Liuget, like other players along the defensive line, should benefit from the transition to Bradley's defensive scheme. With the signing of Brandon Mebane, the arrival of defensive rookie of the year
Joey Bosa and solid rotational depth of Damien Square, Darius Philon and Carun Reid, Liuget should be in a prime position to succeed.
The 27-year-old defensive tackle desperately needs a rebound season, not only to make fans forget about the past two years, but to play up to the standards of his contract.
However, Liuget is not the only player on the Chargers roster with the most to prove this year. Another defensive end is facing a make or break season.
Jeremiah Attaochu has faced a rocky tenure since joining the Chargers as a second-round pick in 2014.
In three years, the former Georgia Tech product has missed 14 games while notching only eight sacks.
Attaochu was originally drafted to create a pass rushing duo with Melvin Ingram. But a lack of availability and a guy named “Bosa” has now pushed Attaochu to a rotational role.
Chargers takeaways- I'm all in on Hunter Henry. Seed/quicks/hands. Philon & Attaochu excellent rotational guys. Tyrell Williams looked great— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 2, 2017
However, Attaochu's best asset is his speed. That speed is what helped him become Georgia Tech's all time sack leader with 31.5. So being limited to situational pass rush duties could benefit the young defensive end. But 2017 will come with plenty of challenge for the 24-year-old.
Not only will Attaochu need to make an impact when he is in the game, he will also have to stave off competition from fellow defensive ends Chris McCain and rookie 7th round pick Isaac Rochell. Both of whom, have received high praise during training camp.
Coach Lynn says seventh round pick Isaac Rochell has really stood out. #ChargersCamp— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) August 7, 2017
Attaochu is in the final year of his rookie deal and he will not only need to be available, but make an impact if he wants to see a new contract with the Chargers or a healthy market as a free agent next year.