If I were a carpenter...

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and because the Chargers were so quiet during free agency, it will be what they do during the draft that will define their off-season. It is essential they get the most out of their two first-round picks and that these two players are capable of providing as much production as they do potential.

Drafting players in the first round who have shown more potential than production has been a problem for the Chargers as of late. They spent their first round picks in 2002 and 2003 on cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis respectively, and so far each has averaged less than two interceptions per season. In order to help them turn their untapped potential into unmatched production, the Chargers will need to fix the root problem that has hindered their defense for years: their utter lack of a pass rush.

Last season, Steve Foley emerged as a legitimate pass-rushing force and rookie Shaun Phillips showed a great deal of promise, but more help is needed.

Luckily, this upcoming draft is littered with first round prospects who are booming with pass-rush abilities. Now, it is up to the Chargers to land the right ones.

If the board falls in an ideal manner, the Chargers would walk away with Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware, putting them in incredible shape. Spears would team with an ever-developing Igor Olshansky to provide the Chargers with a dominant pair of young ends, and Ware would provide the defense with a player capable of matching Steve Foley's double-digit sack production.

If these players are not available at numbers 12 and 28, respectively, all hope is not lost. In fact, there are a number of intriguing pairings of defense ends and rush linebackers that can be made with players projected to go right around the Chargers two selections.

Tandems such as Shawne Merriman and Shaun Cody, David Pollack and Erasmus James, and Dan Cody and Matt Roth would each bolster the Bolts' pass rush immediately. Because of the abundance of pass-rushing talent expected to be floating around each of the Chargers first-round selections, expect them to lean this way during the draft.

In 2003, when the Chargers used the draft to load up their secondary, they thought they had set in place the foundation for a dominating defense.

"Part of it has to do with the rush," Marty Schottenheimer said. "When you are putting the rush on it becomes a little more difficult to throw it and you don't have to cover them quite as tight."

While the production has been sub par, that foundation is still there. By drafting players who can rush the quarterback and force him to release the ball more quickly, the Chargers can finally allow their young playmakers in the secondary to shine.

A good pass rush and good pass coverage go hand in hand. The Chargers already have their coverage players on board; expect the same to be said about their pass rushers by the time the Colts are on the clock.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net

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