San Diego Chargers 2014 NFL Draft: Chargers Can't Pass On Louis Nix III In Round 1 (Video)
The San Diego Chargers need nose tackle Louis Nix III in the middle of their defense in 2014. (Photo: Reuters / James Dudko)
The San Diego Chargers need some beef in the middle of their defense. Fortunately, they can find exactly that in the 2014 NFL draft, provided they select Louis Nix III with the 25th pick in the first round.
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The outstanding former Notre Dame nose tackle is the missing piece needed to complete a fearsome front seven. Putting Nix in the middle can give San Diego a defense capable of keeping pace with the high-powered Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
Adding a hulking run-plugger to counter Broncos passer Peyton Manning may seem like a strange move. But contrary to popular belief, Nix can be a force pressuring the pocket.
His sheer size at 6'2" and 331 pounds, allows Nix to create tremendous push on the interior of an offensive line. Despite his ample frame, Nix is also agile enough to split gaps and gain quick penetration into the backfield:
This is not a player strictly limited to playing the 0-technique, directly over a center. Creative Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano could certainly justify using Nix as an interior pass-rusher in the team's nickel package.
That would let ultra-athletic tackle Corey Liuget, the best defensive player the Charger have, shift outside to end in certain pressure looks.
Nix can help the Chargers create more pressure inside. An interior push is vital to stopping Manning, a static pocket-passer:
It is essential to push linemen back into Manning and obscure his view of the middle of the field. The legendary gunslinger loves to attack the inside seams, so filling his throwing lanes is a key part of slowing the Broncos down.
With Nix, Liuget and the capable Kendall Reyes pushing the middle, the Chargers can have the edge over Manning.
The disruption inside would also mean more one-on-one matchups on the edges for outside pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram. The pair were both injured for most of last season, so Pagano was forced to scheme pressure.
But with Nix drawing a lot of attention inside, Freeney and Ingram would create havoc on the edges.
As much as Nix would help San Diego's pass rush, his value for the run defense shouldn't be undersold. He is a natural focal point for repelling a ground game.
Nix forces runners wide with his ability to clog the middle and push blockers back into running lanes. That's a key part of how any 3-4 front stands up to the run:
Pagano's unit ranked 12th against the run last season, surrendering 107.8 yards per game, via stats from NFL.com. While those numbers aren't terrible, there were times when the Chargers were dominated on the ground.
The Washington Redskins amassed 209 yards and four rushing touchdowns in a Week 9 overtime defeat. In a Week 13 home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego defense allowed 164 yards on the ground.
They were dumped out of the playoffs by the Broncos, thanks in no small part to the 133 yards produced by Denver running backs.
The Chargers need a stronger run defense to compete in the AFC West. They face the Kansas City Chiefs and star rusher Jamaal Charles twice a season.
The Oakland Raiders now boast a backfield featuring Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, two former 1,000-yard rushers.
But if the Chargers plug Nix into the middle, any issues against the run would soon disappear. He would give Pagano's scheme the big body it needs inside.
Nix's ability to draw and command consistent double-team blocks creates space for others to make plays. That would mean greater production from Liuget and Reyes, two natural impact playmakers.
But it would also make talented inside linebackers Manti Te'o and Donald Butler more of a force. With Nix occupying guards, Butler and Te'o, an ex-teammate of Nix at Notre Dame, would be free to pursue and attack ball-carriers.
That is the essence of a 3-4 system, a big man in the middle sacrificing himself to let linebackers be the stars.
The Chargers didn't have that last season with underwhelming trio Cam Thomas, Kwame Geathers and Sean Lissemore rotating over center.
Nix would be a significant upgrade at the most important position on the San Diego defense. Just the thought of Nix, Reyes and Liuget on the same front is enough to give offensive coordinators nightmares.
Quarterback Philip Rivers and his offense carried the Chargers for most of 2013. But drafting Nix can give San Diego a defense ready to dominate.