Would You Trade Smitty for This Guy?

Antonio Garay would need a change of hair color

Pro Football Focus ran this article about a little known Nose Tackle in San Diego.  His name: Antonio Garay

Per PFF, the potential is off the charts for this 31-year old Tackle, but he played the last 2 years behind Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Jacques Cesaire and Luis Castillo.  The Chargers also have Cam Thomas projected to start at NT, and just drafted Corey Luiget.  And while they could lose Cesaire via free agency (another potential Panther?), Cesaire has said he'd be willing to take a pay cut to stay.

At 6'4", 320 lbs, Garay's a run-stopper and pass rusher from the nose.  But in his 6 years prior to last year, he barely saw the field with Cleveland, Chicago, and finally San Diego. 

He attended Rahway High School in Rahway, New Jersey, and was a standout offensive and defensive lineman. He was also the NJSIAA 275 lb (125 kg). state and national wrestling champion in 1998.  That's National Champ in 1998 -- I like wrestlers on the front lines.

Exerpts from the PFF article can be found following the jump:

It was one of the things that astounded me as the season went on. I watched his performance and wasn’t just impressed, but amazed. Not just because of how well he played, but because of how little of the field he continued to see.

In his 2nd year with Rivera's SD defense, Garay did start to get some snaps, and he made the most of them:

You would think San Diego would therefore have looked at Garay’s impact and found more ways to get use out of him. He wasn’t just getting the job done in the run game, he was taking what opportunities he had in passing situations as well. So much so that when we released our yearly Pass Rushing Productivity rankings, guess who got the most pressure on a per play basis of all defensive tackles playing at least 250 snaps? Well you don’t need to guess, you can just look below:

Top Defensive Tackles, Pressure Per Snap, 2010

Rank Player Team Pass Rush Pressure Percentage
1 Antonio Garay SD 250 11.60%
2 Shaun Rogers CLV 272 11.03%
3 Geno Atkins CIN 290 10.69%
4 Richard Seymour OAK 356 10.39%
5 Kyle Williams BUF 440 9.77%

I like the idea of a versatile NT in our improving rotation.

Quite remarkable. And what made it all the more impressive is that he was largely doing it from a base defense position, with the Chargers opting to use both Jacques Cesaire and Luis Castillo inside in their sub package D. How did those two men fair? On over 100 more snaps rushing the passer, they managed 10 fewer quarterback disruptions, for a pressure per pass rush percentage of 5.4% (Cesaire) and 5.34% (Castillo).

I have to think that Garay's somewhat unexpected production drew the attention of then DC Rivera.  Could it be there are issues that never surfaced, or could it be a case similar to Connor behind Beason?  Or maybe big Ron just doesn't like the hair color thing.

(Limited snaps) was a theme that developed throughout the year. He’d play the majority of his snaps in base packages, rarely getting a whiff of a sub package defense that was generating next to nothing up the middle. But he got on with things, and exceeded what most expected of him. By season’s end, only five defensive tackles had more defensive stops than him, all of whom had played at least 100 more snaps, and some of whom had twice as many snaps as the 465 he managed.

The big man from Boston College was making plays.

Garay is no spring chicken at 31, but with so few snaps in his first five years, you have to think there's still several years of tread left on the tires.

So, as I get off my soap box, I’ll stop bemoaning what we didn’t get to see, and remind you of what we did. A guy who was disruptive in every phase, and whose hair added a bit of color to even the dullest of games. He may not have the reputation quite yet, but in 2010 there wasn’t a more destructive nose tackle than Antonio Garay.

The big man from Boston College was making plays

The Chargers recently re-signed Garay to a 2-year deal.  Smitty has 2 years remaining on his contract.  Both are over 30; Smitty's a proven star, Garay's an emerging one.   

What say you, CSR?  Let's Make a Deal, or not? 

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