Ask anyone in the Chargers locker room and they will all give you the same answer: The defense will only go as far as Jamal Williams can carry it.
"He's just so solid inside it's hard to run the football when he's in the middle," said Norv Turner of Williams.
The concern is how far Williams can carry the unit given his increasing age and lingering knee pain. Turner did his best to help last season, giving Williams Wednesdays off to keep him fresher late into the season, but Williams still labored for much of the year and missed the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2005.
NT Jamal Williams
Williams returns another year older and with another year of wear and tear on his knees. And while there is no doubt he has another dominant season left in his 6-foot-3, 348-pounds frame, there is cause for concern as to what would happen if Williams finally breaks down.
No one else on the roster has what it takes to anchor a 3-4 defense. The only other defensive lineman who weighs at least 305 pounds is rookie Vaughn Martin. However, Martin is not a viable backup candidate for two reasons: 1) he is being groomed to play defensive end; and 2) he is greener than grass.
This leaves the Chargers two options. First, the team could bring in a backup from outside the organization. Second, the team could hope to get by as-is and address the nose tackle position in next year's draft. However, for a team with championship aspirations, the second scenario isn't overly appealing.
That's why, if I were calling the shots, I'd be spending this down time in the NFL calendar searching for a big body that could control the middle for 12-15 snaps per game. And that search would lead me one place: DT Dewayne Robertson.
Robertson (6-foot-1, 308 pounds), the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, is a talented lineman with experience playing the nose in a 3-4 defense. He has started at least 12 games in each of his six pro seasons and has accumulated 278 tackles and 16 sacks during that span.
Robertson is often labeled a "bust" or an "underachiever" because he failed to live up to his draft status. Nonetheless, he could be an effective role player, one who could approach his high ceiling by learning from an All Pro like Williams.
When Robertson signed with the Jets as a rookie, he agreed to a seven-year, $54 million deal. When he was traded to the Denver Broncos prior to last season, he inked a six-year, $24 million contract. Now, the Chargers could likely pluck him off the street with a one-year, $3 million pact. That's the kind of low-risk, high-reward move I'd love to make as general manager.
How would you improve depth at nose tackle? Talk about it in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.