COSTA MESA, Calif. — In need of a more consistent pass rush with Joey Bosa out for at least another month due to a foot injury, the Los Angeles Chargers should get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Corey Liuget.
The NFL suspended Liuget without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Selected No. 18 overall by the Chargers in the 2011 draft out of Illinois, the 28-year-old Liuget has recorded 260 combined tackles and 22.5 sacks in eight NFL seasons.
“I definitely feel very confident in myself in getting out there and creating some push to the quarterback,” Liuget said.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn met with Liuget on Monday, and Lynn said he looks in shape. However, Lynn will have to see how Liuget makes it through practice this week before deciding whether he will be active on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
“Corey’s one of the better run-stoppers in this league,” Lynn said. “When he was in there this preseason, the front seven looked a lot better. And so it’s going to be nice to have him back.”
During his suspension, Liuget trained in San Jose for four weeks and also performed community service work with a juvenile detention center while there.
Liuget’s still upset about the suspension. He’s suing former trainer Ian Danney for $15 million in damages due to lost wages, pain and suffering he believes were caused by his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
“I still haven’t put it behind me,” Liuget said. “It’s definitely an emotional deal. But at this point I just have to focus on game No. 5 right now and try to help us get this third win, because that’s the most important thing right now.”
Liuget said it was good to get away from being near the team headquarters during the suspension. Liuget was not allowed to talk to anyone within the Chargers organization, including players, during his four-game suspension.
“My wife kicked me out of the house, too, in a good way,” joked Liuget. “She was like, ‘OK, you’ve been off for four days, it’s time to get up there and get to work.'”
The Chargers could also use Liuget’s ability to generate a pass rush.
Per ESPN Pressure Reports using NFL Next Gen Stats, Chargers defensive tackles are generating pressure within 2.5 seconds of the snap on just 14 percent of dropbacks this season, tied for the third-lowest rate in the NFL.
For comparison, the Rams lead the league in this metric at 36 percent, and the league average is 21 percent.
The Chargers have just eight sacks on the year — tied for No. 22 in the NFL — and have been held to one sack each in three of the team’s first four games.
“We challenge the defensive line, when you have one-on-ones, you’ve got to win those,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “But there’s certain things that we can do, too. Maybe it’s different games up front. I know [defensive line coach] Giff [Smith] has talked about that and how we can try to get more one-on-ones with our guys.”
The Chargers had one of the best pass defenses in the NFL last season. But through four games, the Chargers have given up 10 passing touchdowns (sixth worst in the league) and opposing quarterbacks have a 100.9 passer rating against the Bolts’ defense.
The only saving grace for the Chargers defensively is they have five interceptions as a team.
“It’s up to the team,” Liuget said. “If they play me, if the head coach, A-Lynn, gives me a shot, I’m definitely going to take full advantage of it, so it’s up to them. But I know when I get in the game, I’m definitely going to look forward to making some plays.”