Bolts Roundup: Defensive Breakdown

The Chargers have one of the most explosive defenses in the league. With Jamal Williams anchoring the run defense, Shawne Merriman bringing heat off the edge and Quentin Jammer locking up receivers downfield, the Chargers have talent to dominate on every level. With training camp less than a week away, here is how the defensive stoppers measure up...

Defensive Line

  • Jamal Williams has established himself as one of best at his position, clogging the middle to allow the linebackers to swoop in for the tackles and the glory.
  • Luis Castillo is eager for a full season after missing six starts with an ankle injury -- and he still had seven sacks.
  • Igor Olshansky is a force on the early downs, proving to be a difficult man to move at the point of attack.
  • Jacques Cesaire is a capable backup on the edge.
Linebackers

  • Shawne Merriman is more than a Pro Bowler -- he can change the outcome of games with his dominating play. He missed four games last year with a suspension and still paced the NFL with 17 sacks.
  • Shaun Phillips isn't far behind in terms of production, especially when teams focus so much on Merriman -- Phillips' quickness gave him 11½ sacks last season.
Defensive Backs

  • Antonio Cromartie, who made significant strides in his rookie season last year as the nickel back, will challenge Drayton Florence for a starting spot this season.
  • Paul Oliver seems realistic about his chances of having a significant impact his first year with the team after being selected in the fourth-round of the supplemental draft. The secondary is filled with mostly veterans.

    "Me going in there and competing for a (key) position might be a little farfetched, but I expect to learn a lot from them," Oliver said.

  • Eric Weddle, the versatile rookie safety from Utah who the Chargers acquired in a draft-day trade, will challenge Clinton Hart for the starting strong safety job.
Kickers

  • Nate Kaeding turned in a Pro Bowl season last year and even found extra distance on his kickoffs -- their length had been a cause for concern.
  • Mike Scifres is solid and among the reasons Philip Rivers was so good on third downs -- he wouldn't force a pass knowing Scifres would deliver a good punt and Rivers would attack the defense on the next series.

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