SAN DIEGO – The Chargers drafted or signed rookies at every position this offseason except one: defensive end.
The unit has stayed intact minus nose tackle Jamal Williams, who played in just one half of one game last year due to an injury.
Few of the parts that now exist were in place a year ago.
Those players now have spent a partial season and an entire offseason growing together. A mix of players from across North America are transforming into a unit defined by continuity.
“It is a significantly different group. We’ve had a lot of turnover (in the last two years),” said
“(Johnson, Boone and
Castillo and Cesaire will try to rekindle their pass-rush power in 2006, when they combined for 11 sacks. But they’ll have reinforcements among a versatile group of players, many of whom can stop the run and clog the middle of the 3-4 defense if necessary.
The veterans are as prepared as the young players to compete for roles and roster spots during training camp. No one, Castillo said, feels like they’ve secured a job.
“I think one of the biggest things this year is the level of competition on the defensive line. I think 11 guys have an opportunity to make this team and help this team win,” Castillo said. “We realize we won’t all be here. It’s the reality of the league. It’s always an open competition for who goes out there and who has the privilege of being able to represent this team, and we treat it that way.
“The guys that have been in the league the longest, guys like Boone; he treats it the same way. We still realize we have to go out there every day and get better. Because really that’s the only thing you can do. You either get better or you get worse.”
Boone, as Castillo alluded to, is the most experienced Chargers defensive end, entering his 10th NFL season. He made a career-high three sacks for San Diego last year despite signing with the Chargers two weeks after the opener at Oakland.
Johnson, a former first-round pick with the Houston Texans, played nearly 300 snaps during his first season in San Diego last year.
Nwagbuo, also a defensive tackle, and Martin hope to earn increased responsibilities this year, while
He made the field Week 17 for the Atlanta Falcons as a rookie in 2007 and has spent time with five NFL teams in less than four years.
|DEFENSIVE ENDS AT A GLANCE|
Started every game he played last season for the first time in his career … Made his first sack of the season Nov. 8 at the New York Giants and also made crucial second and third down tackles near the goal line late in the Chargers’ 21-20 win … Both of his parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti before he was born.
Week 1 starting defensive ends, 2000-09:
2000: LDE Albert Fontenot, RDE Darren Mickell.
2001: LDE Marcellus Wiley, RDE Raylee Johnson.
2002: LDE Marcellus Wiley, RDE Raylee Johnson.
2003: LDE Marcellus Wiley, RDE Raylee Johnson.
2004: LDE Igor Olshansky, RDE Adrian Dingle.
2005: LDE Jacques Cesaire, RDE Igor Olshansky.
2006: LDE Luis Castillo, RDE Igor Olshansky.
2007: LDE Igor Olshansky, RDE Luis Castillo.
2008: LDE Luis Castillo, RDE Igor Olshansky.
2009: DE Luis Castillo.
Week 1 defensive ends on roster, 2000-09:
2000: Albert Fontenot, Darren Mickell, Adrian Dingle, Neil Smith.
2001: Marcellus Wiley, Raylee Johnson, Albert Fontenot.
2002: Marcellus Wiley, Raylee Johnson, Adrian Dingle, Chris Demaree.
2003: Marcellus Wiley, Raylee Johnson, Adrian Dingle, Otis Leverette.
2004: Igor Olshansky, Adrian Dingle, Dave Ball.
2005: Jacques Cesaire, Igor Olshansky, DeQuincy Scott. Luis Castillo, Dave Ball, Derreck Robinson.
2006: Luis Castillo, Igor Olshansky, Jacques Cesaire, Derreck Robinson.
2007: Igor Olshansky, Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire.
2008: Luis Castillo, Igor Olshansky, Jacques Cesaire.
2009: Luis Castillo, Andre Coleman, Vaughn Martin, Travis Johnson, Jacques Cesaire.