Chargers aim for suffocating defense

The 12-4, AFC West champion Chargers did a lot of great things last season. Getting to quarterbacks wasn't one of them.

One peak at their NFL's No. 31st ranked pass defense proves it, although that number is slightly skewed since they had a ton of passes thrown their way. With but 29 sacks, a number that is worse than advertised given their high number of pass attempts against - tied for third-fewest in the league - the secondary was exposed.

So where does the pass-rush come from this season to help basically the same secondary?

Top pick Shawne Merriman skipped the offseason workouts. Whether the linebacker/end makes it into training camp at a reasonable date remains to be seen. But counting on him could be a stretch.

Defensive lineman Luis Castillo, the other top pick, has been understandably getting his reps at left end. He has some speed off the snap but it known as a tough run defender first.

End David Ball had some burst his rookie year, but he's yet to get medical clearance for a cranky back.

Outside linebacker Steve Foley is back, along with his team-high 10 sacks. But he needs some help.

End Igor Olshansky, a second-round pick last year? He has worked on getting off the snap quicker but may be still a run-stopper.

Adrian Dingle had six sacks two years ago. But his ailing knee that cut into his playing time last year had him out of a recent minicamp.

DeQuincy Scott had a team-high 6.5 sacks two years ago. But injuries and the switch to the 3-4 alignment derailed him last year.

Tackle Jamal Williams returns with his four sacks, but his niche is occupying two interior linemen and snuffing the run.

The Chargers' run defense is stout. It allowed but 81 yards per game in '04. But to among the NFL's elite teams, a pass rush - to help a wobbly defense - has to be located.

"We're still growing, but we're not fully there yet," Foley admitted.

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