When the Chargers named John Pagano their defensive coordinator in January, the unit he was set to take over had problems all over the place. With top players like OLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Takeo Spikes and CB Quentin Jammer getting up there in age, San Diego’s defense needed an infusion of youth. And given the fact the team finished last in the NFL in third-down defense and was now going to be facing Peyton Manning twice a season, the defense needed some more talent, too.
With their first two draft choices, the team gave Pagano a pair of pieces to work with, adding both youth and talent in the form of OLB Melvin Ingram in Round One and DE Kendall Reyes with the No. 49 overall pick in the second. Neither may start right away for the Chargers, but both will have a long-term role in the team’s 3-4 scheme.
Ingram, an accomplished pass rusher, will work in a deep outside linebacker rotation that Pagano hopes will be more aggressive this season than it was a year ago. With terrific hands, athleticism and versatility, Ingram has the chance to wreck havoc along with players like Phillips, Spikes and third-year LB Donald Butler. His exact position isn’t defined, but he’ll see the field plenty.
On the line, Reyes will team with 2011 first-rounder Corey Liuget and up-and-comer Vaughn Martin to form a strong and athletic trio of defensive ends. With Luis Castillo facing injury problems and the team not set at nose tackle, San Diego now has great flexibility to mix and match to use all three players in roles that fit them best. For Reyes, that role is as a strong run-stuffer who also can also get his hands up and knock down passes. His weight was a concern in college, but given his intelligence and leadership traits, that can be easily fixed by a tough coach such as Pagano.
There are still problems on the Chargers defense; Ingram and Reyes don’t fix everything. But given all the pressure on the team to win this season, their additions should go a long way in fixing the unit long-term.
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