Chargers pick a replacement for Williams?

Next year, San Diego Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams is set for unrestricted free agency. And a few days ago, the Bolts picked Luis Castillo in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Management has already said that he will play on the nose and at end. Which makes one question the future of number 76, the recent birthday boy.

Throughout the year, head Marty Schottenheimer pointed to Jamal Williams as the reason for the success of the run defense. He may have been the best nose in the game last year and was instrumental in eating up blockers for the linebackers to make plays.

Williams, who turned 29 on April 28, has had some past injury concerns but those troubles seem behind him. But the problem seems to stem from other players who will be up for unrestricted free agency and the cap next year.

Toniu Fonoti, Drew Brees and Williams are the early favorites to command a ransom. Depending on how the Brees situation pans out, Williams may be the odd man out. Ben Leber and Reche Caldwell are on the second tier – but it is clear why they did not make a splash in free agency this year.

Rivers could replace Brees. Merriman for Leber. Jackson for Caldwell. Fonoti has no replacement and Williams, well, he may have Luis Castillo as his heir apparent.

"I played a lot of nose (three technique) at school," Castillo admitted.

While Steve Foley received the glory last year for his work at outside linebacker, Williams was the main reason behind the Chargers high ranking, third best, against the run, allowing 81.7 yards per game.

Williams was a focal point of the revamped defense last year and there were those who thought he could not handle the situation. He more than proved them wrong, showing raw strength and the ability to take on double teams.

The problem could be money. Williams is being recognized by many, even his own organization, as the man responsible for the defensive turnaround.

"He is really the cornerstone of that defense," Schottenheimer acknowledged. "When you have a nose tackle like that guy, he puts pressure on the quarterback in the middle of the pocket. He is so powerful and difficult to block one-one-one."

Planning for the future could be why there is even talk about Castillo manning the middle. If the Chargers can't come to terms with Williams, Castillo may have to be the man.

And the coaching staff reaffirmed the use of the former Northwestern defender.

"Luis has shown an ability and versatility to work inside at what we call the three technique on the guard and we may also find him in the five technique in the tackle area," Schottenheimer said.

At 6-foot-3, 305-pounds, is Castillo stout enough to take the pounding every play?

That is a question the Chargers may be answering by putting him in the three technique.

Perhaps they will realize how much they really need Williams on their defensive line and how much better it will be with Castillo lining up next to him.

Lightning Quicks:

The Bolts will bring in former Oregon State offensive lineman Joey Forster for a tryout during rookie minicamp. Forster, a 2004 draft eligible player, had been training on his own since January for a shot to play in the NFL. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 315-pounds.

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