Season in Review: Defensive Tackles

How much does Jamal Williams mean to the Chargers? Well over the last two years they are 11-4 with him in the lineup and 2-15 without him in the lineup. Joining Williams along the interior of the line was Jason Fisk, who was to make everyone forget about John Parrella leaving for Oakland. In the end, no one forgot.

Jamal Williams, 6-3, 305 pounds, has become the lifeblood of the Chargers defensive line. What makes him so special is the constant double-teams he commands along the interior of the line. This frees up the talented Chargers linebackers, and also takes away the potential of doubling ends Ray Lee Johnson and Marcellus Wiley. He is by no means a pass rusher, but what he does so well is stuff the run and continually opens holes for others to make plays. The difference can be seen when he is out of the lineup as evidenced by the record above.

Williams had 7.5 stuffs on the season, most coming on first down. That is, he took a rusher down behind the line of scrimmage that many times. Considering he had 24 tackles on the season, the stuffs amounted to 25%. By stopping a rusher on first down it created opportunities in subsequent downs.

Williams played in just 12 games this year in what appeared to be a Pro Bowl type season. In the Denver game Steve Herndon, an offensive lineman, hit him with a cheap shot on the first play of the third quarter that cost Williams the rest of the season. The play resulted in Williams dislocating his left ankle and he was placed on injured reserve. In 2001, he was lost after just three games to a knee injury. The Chargers hope he can stay healthy for all of 2003, as he has proven his worth.

Williams also added 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. Williams signed a 5 year deal worth $23 million back in May of 2001. He is entering his third guaranteed year of that contract and is due a roster bonus of one million. His base salary this year will be 2.4 million, which does not include the bonus.

Jason Fisk, 6-3, 295 pounds, replaced the popular John Parrella as a starter along the interior of the San Diego defense. Fisk was to be the compliment to Williams, providing another stout run defender and flashing the ability to collapse the pocket on the pass rush.

Fisk though, failed at the point of attack. He was unable to get the necessary push up front that would result in game changing tackles. Of his 38 tackles, only 2.5 were considered stuffs. He also did not take on as many blockers as Williams and when Williams went down for the year the Chargers could not recover. Clinton Portis had a 90 yard second half in the game Williams was hurt in. Two weeks later Buffalo racked up a 6.2 avg. on yards per carry. The biggest difference wasn't so much in the running game but rather against the pass. The Chargers were unable to create pressure and teams could focus more on stopping Marcellus Wiley and Ray lee Johnson.

Fisk did not get his mitts up to deflect any balls all year long, meaning passing lanes were always open. He also forced zero fumbles, among the many Chargers who did not record a positive statistic in this category.

Fisk signed a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the Chargers on March 7th, 2002, the day after Parrella bolted for the hated Oakland Raiders as an unrestricted free agent. Fisk will see his salary increase over the next few seasons and will be back. He needs to play better than he did last year and could see his playing time diminish as the Chargers use a rotation at defensive tackle. With Parrella doing fine in Oakland, Fisk will have to work hard on making Chargers fans forget who manned the middle in 2001.

Leonardo Carson, 6-2, 305 pounds, started the last four games for the injured Williams and saw action in all 16 games. A former defensive end in college, Carson has played the interior since his senior year. He is still learning the position and has made strides towards becoming a more complete player.

Carson contributed 31 tackles on the year but provided just .5 stuffs. Carson has the speed to be a factor against the pass and had 3.5 sacks and three passes defensed. The problem he faces is he has short arms. On the interior of the line it is tougher for him to shed a block and get "good wood" to make a tackle due to his small wingspan.

Carson is a restricted free agent, ‘Players with three years of NFL experience. Like an unrestricted free agent they are free to negotiate with any team however the current team has the right to match any offer and if they do so they retain the rights to the player. Failure to meet the offer means the player is awarded to the new team but the new team must give the old team compensation in the form of draft picks."

Carson may not be resigned. The Chargers will be looking to upgrade this position, and with Fisk and Williams locked up they may go for another veteran or look at the draft for a quality interior defensive lineman.

DeQuincy Scott, 6-1, 285 pounds, saw action in 8 games for the Chargers. In limited action Scott had eight tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and two passes defensed.

Scott showed some good hustle in the preseason and though his stats don't include any sacks back then he was hurrying the quarterback. With hard work and his non-stop motor he made the team. Scott is one of those players who finds a way to make plats despite a lack of size on the interior. He can get bounced around the middle and is not suitable to take on double teams but has a good repertoire of moves.

Scott is signed through 2003 and he comes cheap at $300K. With a lack of playmakers on the interior, Scott should find a nice little niche to help the team in the future.

Doug Sims, 6-3, 340 pounds, did not play for the Chargers in 2002 and was placed on injured reserve on August 27th. Sims is a huge body the Chargers lack in the middle and could be a real force as a two down guy who stuffs the run and takes on double teams. He has incredible quickness for a player his size but is still raw in terms of potential. He is slow getting off low blocks and must improve his footwork. With some teaching he could be a solid role player in the rotation.

Sims is signed through 2003 and with a healthy return to the lineup he could see some action next year. The Chargers should have a few more roster spots open next season as they try and stay away from one role players and get players who can contribute in a number of areas.

Shawn Price, 6-4, 290 pounds signed on Dec. 4, 2002 to add depth to a unit depleted by the loss of defensive tackle Jamal Williams, who suffered a dislocated ankle against Denver on Dec. 1. He did not play for the Chargers this year and is an unrestricted free agent who will not return.

Up Next: LINEBACKERS

Denis Savage can be reached at: Denis Savage

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