Chargers Defense Without An Emotional Leader

With the San Diego Chargers losing Shawne Merriman for the season, who will emerge as the defense's new emotional leader? The Chargers lost much more than just a good player; they lost a team captain, a leader on defense, a guy who teammates feed off of. Merriman was the most feared man on that defense, and without him, who will bring the intensity and fire to the huddle and on the sidelines?

Quentin Jammer and Jamal Williams are great players; veterans who guys look up to. Their way is to lead by example, by taking care of business on the field. They aren't big rah-rah guys and they don't get into people's faces.

Guys like Luis Castillo, Shaun Phillips, and Steven Cooper play with passion and have the potential to step up and lead the defense. Can they be players their teammates rally around? Will they step up their games and force opposing offenses to gameplan around them?

This was supposed to be the Chargers big year, the year they finally make it to the Super Bowl. Certainly losing a player of Shawne Merriman's caliber hurts the Chargers' defense on the field. But only time will tell as to what type of intangible impact the loss of Merriman will have.

The defense was criticized for poor tackling and playing with a lack of intensity. Without Merriman, how much worse will it get? At this point, I wonder if a trade is in the works? If the Chargers want to leapfrog the Colts, Steelers, Cowboys, and Patriots, they can do it by retooling. But who is out there? Every team thinks they have a chance right now, so it wont be easy to steal away a good pass rusher via trade. The only guy who I can think of is Terrell Suggs from Baltimore. He would be a one year rental essentially, because the Ravens franchised him (you can trade a franchised player, right?). But it'll take a lot to get him, and the Chargers might be comfortable with going with Phillips, Tucker, Harris. We'll just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday. But AJ Smith will make the occasional mid-season trade if he thinks he can help the team (Chris Chambers) so I wouldn't rule it out completely.

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September 10, 2008

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Neoplatonist23 said... Sep 10, 2008, 5:51:00 PM

I think this leadership concern is the sum total of Merriman's loss, and it kind of matters when Norv and Ted are your top coaches. Harris and Tucker aren't at Merriman's level as players, but alongside Shaun Phillips they'll still be excellent on all downs (not as versatile or experienced, but still very good at pass-rush and run-stopping, and that's what counts).

A bigger concern is the combination of our weak ILB run-stopping and the poor health of Jamal Williams. Heh heh... maybe the Chiefs will trade for Donnie Edwards back... not. Maybe Siler is the answer. Waters isn't ready yet. I'll believe in Dobbins when I see him stop the run. I think that as the season goes on, they're going to go to more of a 4-3, running Bingham more often alongside Williams or McKinney, and dropping Bingham out in the nickel package, as their safeties can come up and stop the run pretty well. That would leave Weddle wearing the radio most of the time, with Wilhelm in mostly dime packages, or in a 3-4 as alternative to the nickel.

A true 3-4 is a personnel-driven option.
* This is likely to be Igor's last year here.
* Jamal is on his last legs, and no longer automatically worth two giant linemen. The guys behind him are not replacements, and a rookie DT, even a first-rounder, is a crapshoot.
* Lights Out is, well.... umm....
* Stephen Cooper is Randall Godfrey perhaps, but Matt Wilhelm ain't Donnie Edwards.
* We have absolutely zero incentive to cover with linebackers when we could go to a nickel package. SD's corners as a squad are WAY out in front of the NFL, in great part because #3 and 4 play like many other teams' #1s.

It's so 2006. Now, if we get super-lucky in the offseason with an NT, and Waters or Siler turns out to be a long-term solution, that's cool, and the 3-4 will be fine (Bingham is ok). But that's not a given, and it's not even an option this year. This is our shot, Merriman or no.

Sir Bolt said... Sep 10, 2008, 8:34:00 PM

Wow. Terrell Suggs, eh? I think you just made me pee my pants. I'd have to say it's probably a massive, massive wet dream to think he'll end up here this season, but damn would that be great.

To be honest, though, I'm more concerned about our ILBs and interior d-line play. We're getting run on like we're playing Pop Warner players up the middle and it has to stop.


Rocco said... Sep 11, 2008, 10:47:00 AM

@ Neoplatonist23

The team keeps saying that it only looks like a 4-3 at times, but they don't actually run one. But I think Shaun Phillips is a natural DE and Jyles Tucker played that position in college. Antwan Applewhite is not the best runner in space and would probably fit better at DE anyways. Lets not forget Ron Rivera's background as well.

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