Corey Liuget Will Upgrade the D-Line

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.

DT Corey Liuget
Brian Spurlock/US Presswire
"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 help 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."

Most 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."

What do you think of the selection of Corey Liuget? Discuss in the message boards.

BoltsReport Top Stories