SAN DIEGO – Drafting players as 3-4 defensive ends and outside linebackers often stirs debate about an individual’s ability to translate his skills to a new position.
Playing defensive end and outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme often require a different set of responsibilities than most players are accustomed to in college, and there are many opinions as to the exact size, strength and speed ideal for those slots.
It comes as no surprise, then, that when San Diego selected Corey Liuget with the No. 18 overall pick of the NFL Draft, it spawned some discussion about whether the Illinois defensive tackle was a good fit to play end in the Bolts’ defense.
Don’t overthink it, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky says.
“Quick. Strong. Fast. And can hold a point. For defensive linemen, if you find those characteristics in a player, you want to draft him,” Manusky said.
“I don’t care if a guy weighs 400 pounds but he’s got great speed and great feet. Shoot, I’d have him playing corner if he could cover wide receivers for us. In regards to him being a 4-3 guy or a 3-4 guy, he’s got the attributes to be a pretty good defensive end. That’s where he is.”
Manusky also likes that Liuget is passionate about football, figuring that will help motivate him to study the game and get better.
San Diego also drafted cornerbacks Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright as well as linebackers Jonas Mouton and Andrew Gachkar, introducing competition at several positions.
“We don’t have them around here in the offseason, which is going to be a hindrance to them, but hopefully some part of next year they’ll be able to help us win a decent amount of games,” Manusky said.
Though they just left college, Manusky’s advice to the draft picks every year is don’t forget how to be a student. Observe the veterans at practice to learn how to take care of your body and be a professional, he says, but don’t follow their lead at night.
“They have to study the playbook,” Manusky said of the young players’ chances of making an impact on defense. “The studying part is the most vital thing of any defense because all we need is one loose cannon not doing his job and it reflects upon the other 10 guys.”
The rookies will have to earn any time they get on the field against opposing offenses and haven’t proven anything before they’ve stepped onto an NFL practice field once, but the Chargers are confident in their picks and selected them for a reason, Manusky said.
“They’ve got to prepare each week like they’re starting,” he said. “Even if they’re not starting they’ve got to prepare because it could take any fluke play to get them (into that role). So that’s what they’ve got to do.”