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Liuget progressing, gets sack
SAN DIEGO – Corey Liuget tackled Baltimore backup Tyrod Taylor behind the line of scrimmage late in the game Sunday, earning his first NFL sack.
“We were in nickel at that time, so it was definitely a pass-rush (situation). I had an opportunity, I saw it and I took it,” Liuget said.
The first-round pick has started 11 of 14 games at right defensive end as a rookie. His numbers are not glorious, which is pretty standard for an end in the Chargers’ 3-4 defensive alignment. It’s a position which can’t be evaluated on paper. But Liuget clearly still is learning at the NFL level, and getting a sack could give a jolt to his confidence.
“It was real exciting for him,” Turner said. “He’s getting better and better. It’s nice to see him have that kind of production, get the play, but he’s going to get a lot more sacks. He’s going to be an outstanding football player.”
A defensive tackle in college, Liuget has adjusted to a new base formation, bigger and more talented players as well as a season that’s seven games longer including preseason.
“You’ve got to take care of your body, that’s the most important thing,” Liuget said. “It’s double the season almost, it seems like, including the playoffs, which we’re trying to make a run for. It’s definitely different. Seventeen weeks you have to go and get after it, and these guys are true professionals and work on their craft every day.”
There have definitely been growing pains for Liuget, just like there was for Cam Thomas last year. Thomas is an improving backup nose tackle with three sacks in his second season. Liuget, by his coaches’ estimation, is on a similar path of improvement.
“I think he’s going to be outstanding. I think he’s what you want in a No. 1 draft pick. He’s made the kind of progress you’d hope he’d make,” Turner said. “In first and second down, he’s not put in a position to where he has as many pass-rush opportunities. On third down, obviously that’s a priority for us, to get pressure from those defensive tackles, and I think he’s getting better in there.”
BACK TO 53: The Chargers signed outside linebacker Darryl Gamble to the 53-man roster Tuesday.
Gamble, a rookie, has played in three games, mostly on special teams, been inactive for six and spent the rest of the season on the practice squad.
One of the preseason bright spots on defense, Gamble may play behind Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes on Saturday if Travis LaBoy (knee) can’t play. LaBoy did not work during a light Tuesday practice.
RETURN MAN: Antoine Cason became the punt returner late last season with notable results.
Cason rocketed to the top of the NFL list, stunted only by his limited number of returns, which prevented him from qualifying as one of the league’s leaders. He averaged 16.5 yards on 14 punt returns, better than everyone but Chicago’s Devin Hester this season.
Cason has yet to return a punt this season, though he lined up deep Sunday in the second quarter. Sam Koch launched a 57-yarder that went into the end zone for a touchback.
Despite the insertion of the starting cornerback on special teams against Baltimore, Turner would not tip his hand for the final two regular-season games.
“We mixed it up a little bit,” Turner said. “We’ve had (Cason) available and when we had them backed up we wanted to give him an opportunity.”