Originally posted on cover32 - Chargers  |  Last updated 7/21/14
In a 3-4 defense, defensive linemen become often the most overlooked impact players on a given unit. In San Diego, we know all too well just how important strong play from the men up front can be for defensive success as we had one of the best zero-techniques to ever do it — Jamal Williams. As a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, Williams “ate up” opposing interior lineman at 6’3” 348 lbs. He was one of the biggest reasons the Chargers dominated the AFC West in the mid-2000s and his departure in 2010 correlated directly to defensive struggles. The Chargers have yet to find a player capable of filling this vital zero-tech role. The zero-technique player lines up directly over the center and must have a rare combination of size and speed to fulfill all his responsibilities. Zero-technique defensive tackles need to draw double teams from both the guard and center to free up linebackers to make plays and thus, ideally weigh over 325 lbs. Plenty of guys have the size, but speed plus size is essential in order to be able to shoot the A gap, and disrupt plays in the backfield. The Bolts thought they drafted a long-term solution for Williams absence in 2010 5th-round pick, Cam Thomas. Thomas never really put it all together in San Diego and left for Pittsburgh during the offseason. After his departure, San Diego was left with veteran defensive tackle, Sean Lissemore, as the most experienced player at this cornerstone position. Lissemore started at zero-tech in Dallas while Jay Ratliff was injured and came to the Chargers at the start of the 2013 season for a 7th-round pick. This move proved to be very useful for the Bolts as Lissemore was graded as the Chargers best overall defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus last season. He finished with 24 tackles, two sacks and an interception before suffering a shoulder injury late in the season. Lissemore is a very bright player with excellent speed (ran a 4.83 at his Pro Day), but lacks the ideal size (at 303 lbs) to be a full-time player at the zero-technique. For this reason, the Chargers drafted another player with a lot of potential to challenge Lissemore. Ryan Carrethers was drafted in the 5th-round out of Arkansas State this past May. The incoming rookie is a workout warrior, and has relatively low body fat for a 331-pound player. The one critique of Carrethers is his tendency to play “stiff” and get stood up at the line. The youngster needs to learn how to leverage his pads and will excel given the Chargers situation. The veteran can teach the rookie how to play the position while the rookie keeps the veteran fresh. Carrethers has a lot of potential and can learn a lot from Lissemore. However, the more seasoned player has a lot to give the Chargers in the upcoming year and will benefit from a player capable of giving him a quick blow like Thomas did last year. The way the Chargers use these two players this season is one of the things I am most excited about entering training camp. I believe Carrethers has a lot of tools, but will need a lot of grooming to succeed in the NFL. I also really like Lissemore as a player, but know the team is going to need a bit more production from this position. The performance of these two will be a direct indicator of the Bolts’ defensive success this season. These players will also be challenged by Kwame Geathers, Chas Alecxih and Tenny Palepoi. Geathers is entering his second season in the NFL and is an absolute load (6’6” 335 lbs). He had a fantastic camp last year and if Carrethers isn’t careful, this man will take away some of his reps. We will see how much improving Geathers has done during camp. Tenny Palepoi is an undrafted rookie free agent with a lot of quickness, but will need to make a strong case in camp to earn a roster spot. Alecxih was recently claimed from the Chiefs and is looking to finally find a permanent home. You may also be interested in:Camp Preview: Lissemore/Carrethers battle, Reyes and Liuget must blossomRewind: Are San Diego Chargers fans top-10, Power Rankings, best NFL ownersFive Chargers ready for a breakout season, Sorensen eyes backup QB role, who will emerge as the No. 2 WR?
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