On the defensive line there are a few openings and now that only three players will man the middle, they need slightly bigger players that do not necessarily fit the prototypical ends used in a 4-3 alignment.
Players that weight 280-290 now have a chance to show they belong with the team as a rushing end in the 3-4. The feeling is they can handle the bigger guards in the league and still show enough speed to make a difference against offensive tackles.
At a recent Pro Day, Marty Schottenheimer huddled with a player that the Chargers may view as the perfect fit for their new defense.
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 275
Bench: 24 reps
Body Fat: 16.8%
|"Fiery leader on defense that makes a lot of plays in the opponents backfield. Athletic, quick off the snap and moves in every direction with speed. Plays with balance, body lean and rarely off his feet. Quick changing his angle of attack and chases to get involved in the action. Intelligent intense but plays under control" Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview|
Ball played for the Chargers coaching staff during the Senior Bowl. Desperate for sacks, the Chargers have been leaning towards the player that led the nation in that category with 16.5 in '03 en route to earning Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year in '03.
It wasn't always so easy for Ball. He said it came together for him just before his junior season. Before then – he wasn't really known as a candidate to be even selected. Yet his hard work paid off on the field and now he is seen as a mid round selection.
The biggest stigma he admittedly faces is being labeled as a one trick pony, which has forced other 3-4 teams to back off Ball. In his senior season, however, he made strides in run defense, prompting one scout to say he was "not awful defending the run." At the end of the day he still had 43.5 tackles for a loss through his career, two short of a UCLA record.
What has caused him to struggle is the lack of strength in his legs to drive bigger opponents back. He then has a tough time disengaging from the bigger tackles and guards and will get pushed around at the point of attack.
"The Chargers are the only team talking to me about playing in the 3-4,"Ball said.
His biggest asset is his speed and that has the Chargers intrigued. They are looking for anyway to bring pressure quickly and Ball combines that speed with strong hands and a quick swim move.
With the Chargers coaching him at the Senior Bowl, meeting with him at his Pro Day and his potential to wreak havoc in the backfield, Ball could be a Charger in one of the middle rounds of the draft.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com