Chargers Draft: A Defensive Solution

Defense wins championships. It's hard to swallow but swallow it we must. Recent Super Bowl winners have been defensive football teams. Last season, the Bucs shut down the Raiders and the year before that it was the Pats stifling the Rams. On championship weekend, dominant defenses got the best of potent offenses to get their respective teams to the "Big One". So why is all the San Diego Charger draft talk centered on Quarterbacks and Left Tackles? The answer is simple, well sort of....

The San Diego Chargers have the first pick in a draft that boasts mainly offensive talent at the top. Two quarterbacks, an athletic left tackle, and a gifted wide receiver are the main delights on the draft menu. Does it make sense to approach the draft offensively in a defensive minded game, especially when your defense is one of the league's worst?

Selecting a defensive player within the top 5 slots of this draft leaves you with an uneasy feeling. Tommie Harris, Sean Taylor, Vince Wilfork, and Will Smith are the highly rated defenders. Tommie Harris is small for a defensive tackle and doesn't stand out on tape. Vince Wilfork's weight and lack of impact plays concerns scouts. Will Smith is a 260 pound end with great speed and holds his own against the run, but how will he fare against NFL sized tackles? Sean Taylor seems like the safest pick but he is a safety. Watching him get trucked by Greg Jones during his bowl game proved that he is conquerable. Safeties rarely get picked in the top 10 and we happen to be talking top 5 here.

The Chargers' defense, or lack thereof, appears to be the leaking faucet. The offensive line needs fixing, the talent at quarterback could stand to be upgraded, and a threat as a number two receiver could all be considered needs for the Chargers. These needs could all be addressed but the Chargers would still struggle, because ultimately, the defense must be able to stop teams from scoring.

The Chargers have the chance to end their exhaustive search for a true "franchise quarterback" in the form of quarterbacks Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger. If the knock of that opportunity is so loud that it can't be ignored then the ghost of Ryan Leaf must be brushed to the side and the door must be opened. Financial repercussions be damned.

If the knock of that opportunity is faint then the Chargers must listen for other knocks. Teams may come calling for Big Ben or Peyton's little brother to exorcize their own demons. Let's just hope the Chargers get more than a Reche Caldwell and a Tim Dwight in return.

Iowa Left Tackle Robert Gallery is coveted by many. He is considered one of the most athletic offensive linemen to come out in years. He could be the player the Chargers target in a trade down scenario. The Chargers offensive line is short on experience and long on youth. Adding another young inexperienced player to the group might not display the desired effect in due time. The Chargers should look long and hard at free agent offensive lineman. The Chargers do have some youthful talent to work with along the offensive line: Jason Ball, Phil Bogle, Toniu Fonoti, and Courtney Van Buren all have potential as starters. A key free agent or two would help out tremendously. John Tait, Chad Clifton, Damien Woody, Bobbie Williams, Adam Timmerman, Orlando Brown, Mike Flynn, and Matt O' Dwyer are just a few of the offensive lineman scheduled to be UFA's.

One player that is rising and will continue to rise up draft boards is USC's Kenechi Udeze. Udeze enters the draft after a stellar junior season at SC. What makes him so special? He can get to the quarterback and he is not undersized at 6-4, 285. Udeze is a player who can line up anywhere on the line and get to the quarterback. Unlike Vince Wilfork and Tommie Harris, Udeze was very productive this season (16 sacks). When scouts turn on the game tape they will see consistency. Tony Pauline, a draft expert for TFY Draft Preview, used explicative language when describing how shocked he was when viewing game tape of Udeze's dominating play.

Udeze, of course, is not free from the scrutinizing eyes of the draft experts. He's coming out as a junior so he's not as polished as you'd like, however, he does know how to play football and his youth can also be considered a bonus. Can you say upside? Another knock could be that he is not considered a speed rusher but neither was Reggie White; nor is Michael Strahan.

The truth is that nobody really has any clue what the Chargers will do with that first pick. It's too early. We will hear all kind of scenarios and shenanigans. One thing you will hear is how the Chargers are in love with one or both quarterbacks. This could be legitimate or just gibberish that hikes up the trade value of the first pick. If it is the latter then the attention goes to the targeted player. Adding an elite talent to the front seven of the defense would be a start to recovery. It worked for the Panthers with Julius Peppers. Could a talent like Udeze and the scheming of Wade Phillips spark the same kind of turn-around for the Bolts?

Will Mortensen can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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