Source: USA Today
Many thought the Chargers would give its pass rush a jolt with its first pick. But as he often does, general manager A.J. Smith went against what others thought, and grabbed a defensive end.
Illinois' Corey Liuget is headed to San Diego after being the 18th overall selection in the draft.
Thing is, the Chargers are hoping that Liuget is so good, so powerful and so productive that he will free up the outside linebackers.
"We have good pass rushers on the outside," coach Norv Turner said. "We need to get our guys healthy. We've added a guy who will help our football team in Corey."
The 6-2, 300-pound Liuget came out after his junior season and the Chargers couldn't be happier. They didn't think he would get past the Rams, but when he did - and the run of quarterbacks let defenders slip - they jumped on him quickly.
"We had targeted this young man," Smith said. "He has the ability to slide down if we want him to but we're going to put him at defensive end.
"He's absolutely physical. He has a mean little nasty streak that we like too. Relentless. He's got all the qualities that we're looking for in a first-round pick."
And just maybe, with Liuget disrupting blocking assignments opposite Luis Castillo, Shaun Phillips and Larry English - and others - can get after quarterbacks.
"Corey is a physical player, one of those guys we thought could knock people off the ball," said Jimmy Raye, the Chargers' director of player personnel. "We wanted to get more physical up front, to bring more of a presence to our end position and I think we did that."
What the Chargers also did was address a glaring need, especially with them residing in the AFC West. While the NFL is a passing league, out in the AFC West you have to stop the run.
To that point, the Chargers, while No. 4 last year in stopping the run, allowed 362 rushing yards in getting swept by the Raiders. When needing a critical December win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, the Chargers were run over by the Raiders to the tune of 251 yards.
The Chiefs, who wrestled the AFC West crown from the Chargers, went for 183 yards in splitting the season-series.
Even the dismal Broncos pasted 146 ground yards on the Chargers; in seven games last year, the Chargers allowed at least 100 yards rushing.
They are banking on Liuget to do more that get stood up by blockers. They are under the impression he will impose his will on rivals.
"In our division where you probably have the best run teams in the National Football League I think it helps to have a guy who can be physical at the point of attack and keep you from getting knocked backward," Raye said. "We want to be aggressive and go forward and be more physical at the line of scrimmage."
The personable Liuget is confident he's the guy to do just that.
"They needed a heck of a defensive player and that's why they drafted me," said Liuget, who transformed his flabby body a year ago to have a stellar junior year. "I'm going to come in and play some hard-nosed football and helped them win championships."
Turner said Liuget is easy to like.
"When you get a chance to look at him he jumps out at you," Turner said. "He makes a very, very strong impression on you the first time you watch him play."
Turner wouldn't quite bit on the Chargers addressing a need because of getting thumped by divisional foes. It was more about, Turner said, adding to the team's overall strength.
"We got two of the best rushing teams in the league but I think what we are trying to do is become the most complete team we can be," Turner said. "If we're playing a team that is a run team, we can stop the run. If playing a team that throws it 40 times, we can rush the passer."
Must were in a rush to pencil in a pass rusher for the Chargers. But Turner is happy with Shaun Phillips on one side and is banking on Larry English, a first-round pick two years ago, staying healthy and being more productive.
Both should welcome the addition of Liuget.
"He is a powerful man," Turner said of Liuget, who had 25.5 tackles for losses at Illinois. "Mix the power with the great initial quickness; those two things go hand-in-hand with being a good defensive lineman."
Prior to the draft, Chargers general manager A. J. Smith was defensive that his previous three drafts didn't match his previous work.
Once this year's draft arrived, the Chargers decided to go defensive as well.
Four of the Chargers' first five picks were defensive players, led by end Corey Liuget getting snagged in the first round with the 18th pick overall.
It's obvious the Chargers' offense didn't need much help. So, in what was a good move, the Chargers went all-out trying to shore up the defense.
Liuget will be asked to be stout against the run. Marcus Gilchrist will be asked to keen against the pass.
Gilchrist came in at No. 50 overall and he adds depth to that position, as well as possibly being groomed to someday take over for Quentin Jammer.
Gilchrist is also being eyed as a possible returner.
At No. 61, Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton became a Charger. He is a thumper from the Big Ten and known for being physical and durable.
Finally, Rivers got another offensive weapon late in the second round by getting wide receiver Vincent Brown.
Defensive end Corey Liuget: The Chargers are in need of a presence along the front and Liuget could deliver it. The Chargers allowed 100 yards rushing in seven games last year and Liuget was drafted to address that shortcoming.
Wide receiver Vincent Brown: While a bit under the radar playing for San Diego State, Brown is a great route-runner and seems to have a knack for being able to haul in the difficult passes.
A closer look at the Chargers' picks:
Round 1/18 - Corey Liuget, DE, 6-2, 300, Illinois
It wasn't fake enthusiasm from the Chargers' brass when it was able to land this run-stuffer, hoping he can provide a physical presence up front.
Round 2/50 — Marcus Gilchrist, DB, 5-10, 195, Clemson
Gilchrist's reputation is him featuring strength and football smarts. The Chargers also like his experience as a returner - especially with Darren Sproles likely leaving - and he could contribute in the nickel package.
Round 2/61 - Jonas Mouton, LB, 6-1, 239, Michigan
Mouton led the Big Ten in tackles playing on the weak side of a 4-3 alignment and was among the few highlights on a dismal Wolverine defense. He'll be pointed inside on the Chargers' 3-4 scheme.
Round 3/82 - Vincent Brown, WR, 5-11, 187, San Diego State
Brown is a precision route runner with forgiving hands and plays fast. Charlie Joiner, the NFL Hall of Famer and Chargers receivers coach, is a big Brown fan - enough said.
Round 3/89 - Shareece Wright, DB, 5-11, 185, University of Southern California
Wright missed most of the 2009 season because of poor grades. He rebounded with a strong senior season and then fared well in workouts leading up to the draft.
Round 6/183 - Jordan Todman, RB, 5-9, 203, Connecticut
Todman rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 of the Huskies' 12 games. The team is intrigued by the Big East Offensive Player of the Year after he opened eyes with his 4.40-time in the 40.
Round 6/201 - Steve Schilling, OL, 6-4, 308 Michigan
A versatile player, he started two seasons at right tackle and two at left guard.
Round 7/234 - Andrew Gachkar, OLB, 6-2, 233, Missouri
This second-team All-Big 12 player finished with 84 tackles, one shy of being the team leader.
—DE Cory Liuget said he's already heard from Philip Rivers, the team's star quarterback. "He welcomed me with open arms and told me the whole San Diego fan base and the team, the coaching staff, everyone wants me here," Liuget said. "I just told him I'm ready to contribute to winning football games and possibly getting a couple championships. That makes me feel pretty good that this organization and the guys around here really care and it shows that they're not about themselves. They're about the team and more than anything they want to win."
—WR Vincent Brown didn't have to travel far for his Chargers Park press conference. The San Diego State product was about five minutes from the facility when learning he was among the newest Chargers. "I was just excited; I couldn't stop smiling," Brown said. "They called my name on the TV and the whole room just went crazy from there."
—It was a bit of a surprise the Chargers didn't draft an edge linebacker in the early rounds. "We targeted a lot of outside linebackers," director of pro personnel Jimmy Raye said. "Some of them in the first round went before we picked, but we selected a quality defensive lineman we felt could really help us. We had outside linebackers on the list in the second round, and all the guys we targeted again went before we picked. We got in a situation where you have to start thinking about team building."
—While few of the drafted Chargers are expected to start, that doesn't mean they aren't expected to contribute. "You want guys on the 53-man roster who are going to dress on Sundays, to add value in several different ways," Raye said. "Sometimes that's as a starter. Other times, it's as a backup and a special teams player. To be a complete football team, you need all those roles filled. ... We believe we acquired players who will add a toughness and physicalness on special teams, and they would also add speed."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
—WR Vincent Jackson.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
—LB James Holt: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.
—DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.
—S Bob Sanders: FA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
PLAYERS LOST: None.