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Jerry Attaochu developing into an every-down linebacker

SAN DIEGO -- Jeremiah Attaochu doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony.

The San Diego Chargers moved up in the second round of the 2014 draft to select Georgia Tech’s all-time sack leader because of his athleticism and unique ability to rush the passer.

But with veteran outside linebackers Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney no longer on the roster, the second-year pro is working to develop his overall game, which includes more consistent play against the run.

"Your rookie year you are coming in as a situational player," Attaochu said. "So really my entire offseason was geared to being able to be in there, not just on passing situations, but be an every-down player.

"The stuff we worked on with [linebackers coach] Mike Nolan and [assistant linebackers coach] Bobby King in the spring and coming into fall camp, I can definitely see a lot of improvement. I’m a totally different player than I was coming out of college."

Because of a lingering right hamstring injury, Attaochu missed five games in 2014, playing just 161 snaps as a rookie. He finished with 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He also totaled six quarterback pressures and five quarterback hits.

Heading into 2015, Attaochu is projected to start at outside linebacker along with Melvin Ingram. His first preseason outing against the Dallas Cowboys was productive. In 20 plays, Attaochu finished with three combined tackles and a quarterback hit.

"I thought it went pretty well for me," Attaochu said. "I was very technique-sound, and I did a lot of things that I wanted to do coming into the season as far as playing the run and playing every down. So I think for me, that was one of my main takeaways.”

Attaochu will get an opportunity to improve on that performance when San Diego faces the Arizona Cardinals in the second preseason game. But already, Chargers coach Mike McCoy has been pleased with what he’s seen from Attaochu.

"He’s made some big strides, and he just continues to get better every day," McCoy said. "He’s a great fit for what we want to do on the edge.

"He wasn’t healthy the whole year. He kind of had some injures that set him back, so he lost quality work at a certain time during the season. … He did a nice job when he came back, but still, you can’t get those reps back. He worked extremely hard this offseason. He had a good offseason and came back in great shape. And he’s made a lot of plays in camp."

The Chargers finished with just 26 sacks last season, No. 29 in the NFL. And they gave up an average of 4.5 yards per carry in 2014, also 29th in the league. Defensively, players understand they must be better against the run and generate more of a pass rush to be a more effective defense.

San Diego’s cornerstone defensive player up front, Corey Liuget, said he believes an improved Attaochu will help in that goal.

"His biggest thing was being more consistent, and he has definitely developed that," Liuget said. "He comes to work ready to practice each and every day, and I just can’t wait to see him out there on field. He’s definitely more consistent."