LA Chargers Fans: Let’s get real – Defense
Another week has passed since I started this five-part series on the Los Angeles Chargers. Today, we look at what was hoped to be one of the more improved aspects of the team: the defense. The addition of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram both healthy and a season under their belt together, along with Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward, gave LA Chargers fans hope that this would be the year that the Chargers shut down opposing offenses. So far, that has not been the case. So, let’s get real about the Bolts defense.
I don’t want you to think that this is going to be a roast of the Bolts defense. Honestly, there are good and bad things going on defensively. All other stats aside, the most important stat for a defense is how many points per game they are giving up. After five weeks, the Chargers are averaging 23 points per game allowed. That puts them at 21st in the league. Obviously, that is not where they want to be, but their 1-4 record may have led you to believe things were far worse. The problem is when your offense is only scoring 19.8 PPG, you can not afford to give up 23. Yes, I know that much of the blame falls on the offense, but someone needs to step up. When Denver struggled to score with Tim Tebow at QB, their defense just shut down other teams and found a way to win.
It is kind of funny to read social media comments from LA Chargers fans during a game as well as a few days later. During the game we get gems like, “Our front seven is money. DB’s are killing us!” Days later we see, “Pass rush is great, corners playing decent, but we have no run defense!” The latter is closer to the truth. Let’s break down the Chargers defense and see what is working and what is certainly not. In other words, let’s get real.
New Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley brings a new look to the Chargers defense. Bradley likes to stick with a 4-3 scheme with multiple looks. The key to this defense is that the interior linemen, Mebane, and Liuget primarily, are needed to be strong enough to require double teams. If they can manage this, that leaves at least Ingram or Bosa with just one man to beat. It also opens up possibilities for the inside linebackers to fill gaps and make plays. The problem is that on many occasions, the middle of the Chargers defensive line is getting blown off the ball. This leaves large holes up the middle for running backs to take advantage. This would explain much of why the Chargers currently rank 32nd in run defense and give up an average of 5 YPC and 161.2 YPG on the ground. No doubt, the injury to Chargers ILB Denzel Perryman does not help this situation.
This is an interesting area for the Bolts defense. On occasion, it seems like the Chargers must not have enough players on the field as receives run all over the field without a lightning bolt in sight. But then consider the fact that currently the Chargers pass defense is ranked 8th in the league and only allows an average of 190 passing yards per game. I think most of us could live with that ranking. So why does an apparent weakness appear to be a strength? There are a couple of reasons.
The optimist will credit the Chargers pass rush, behind Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, as one of the more dominant in the league. The Bolts rank tied for 3rd with Pittsburgh and Carolina with 17 sacks on the year. Only Cincinnati with 18 and Jacksonville with 20 have more. Individually, Ingram ranks 2nd in the league with 7.5 sacks and Bosa is in 8th with 4.5. Anytime you have a dominant pass rush, corners will cover better because they don’t have to cover as long, and quarterbacks will have to get rid of passes before receivers get open.
The pessimist will say when teams are gaining 5 yards per carry, they do not have to pass as often, hence gaining fewer yards.
The Chargers defense still needs to develop a nastiness that great defenses generally have. I think it is safe to say that Ingram and Bosa have shown that they enjoy giving a solid shot on a ball carrier. On occasion, others do as well. But, the inability that this team shows in tackling is mind-blowing. I understand that they do not get to hit much in practice anymore. But neither do the other teams in the league! The LA Chargers rank near the bottom of the league in tackling. Almost every big play against them so far has come via a missed tackle or two. Players are in position. They just are not getting the job done.
Team discipline is another issue. Far too many penalties! You simply can not give NFL teams extra chances to make plays. Players must find a way to be aggressive without committing stupid penalties. I know it is easier said than done. But winning teams find a way.
While searching for content for this article, I ran across my favorite Facebook comment regarding the LA Chargers defense. In the “San Diego Chargers Fans” group page, Desmond McCoy commented, “I’m just sitting here waiting for someone to blame Rivers for the run defense.” I say, sad but true, Desmond. Sad, but true.
Keep an eye out for the third installment of this five-part series. Next time we take a real look at the special teams.