Pleased with the overall depth he has defensively, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano believes there will be some intense competition for starting jobs once training camp opens July 24.
Only three starters can be written in pen defensively: safety Eric Weddle, middle linebacker Donald Butler and defensive lineman Corey Liuget. You could add a fourth, Melvin Ingram, because of the way he changes San Diego's defense when he's healthy.
But that leaves seven to eight starting jobs up for grabs, according to Pagano, who talked about his defense in a conversation with Darren Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio. You can listen to the conversation here.
“I got 11 in my mind right now,” Pagano said. “But I'd probably say that there's seven to eight that depends on the competition we have, and the depth we have. It's good to have these deals to make sure we get the most competition out of these guys. I mean there's going to be a lot of challenges this year, and it makes us better. Depth is probably the biggest asset of any National Football League team.”
However, Pagano also said that what the organization had to offer, including quarterback Philip Rivers and a winning environment, helped Flowers make a decision to sign with the Chargers.
“I think you have to sell it,” Pagano said. “Everybody says it comes down to money at the professional level. But at the end of the day it's about somebody being excited about their job, and happy about where they want to be, where they want to play and what gives them the best opportunity to win.
“You look at the San Diego Chargers right now, the first thing you see when you walk into that building is Philip Rivers. And when you have a guy like that, you have an opportunity to win a lot of football games. And to me that was very important to him.”
Pagano said Flowers will be used in a number of positions on the field.
“We're going to use him inside, outside, on top, on bottom -- we're going to use him wherever we can,” Pagano said. “He's going to do a lot of things for us. He's going to come in and compete with those guys. We've gotten a lot faster defensively. And those are two things -- the athleticism and the speed defensively -- coaches cannot coach.”
Asked about the nose tackle position, Pagano indicated that Sean Lissemore is the starter, but that he's not as concerned with that position because the Chargers will play base defense about 30 to 35 percent of the time.
“Sean Lissemore is our guy right now,” Pagano said. “He can play inside and outside. And then you have two young players who are big, strong, powerful players and can do a lot of different things. So I think the biggest thing is all three of them had a great offseason, and that's going to help us tremendously.
“The big thing that everybody has to understand is that we were in sub defense -- and that's either five defensive backs or six defensive backs that puts you into an even front -- and we were probably in that roughly 65 to 70 percent of the time. So 30 percent of the time we are in base defense.”