The San Diego Chargers are no longer one of the premier 3-4 defenses in the National Football League, and losing their mammoth All-Pro Defensive Tackle Jamal Williams to a triceps injury is a very large reason why (figuratively and literally). When Williams was placed on injured-reserve, fans held their breath, hoping the Chargers could absorb such a devastating loss. Unfortunately for San Diego, the Chargers were unable to compensate, ill-prepared with no true nose tackles on the roster. After four weeks, it's clear the Chargers are struggling on defense, and instead of trying to force a scheme on the players, perhaps it would be more pertinent if the coaching staff adjusted it's scheme to fit the roster.
(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)
Without a proper nose tackle, it's enormously difficult to run a 3-man front effectively. For reasons unknown, the Chargers have been unable to develop true depth behind Jamal Williams and are now paying the price. The Chargers have the 28th ranked run defense in the NFL, and are statistically the worst defense on third and fourth down. On third down, the Chargers give up a first 49 percent of the time. On fourth down, opposing offenses are a perfect three for three.
Along with the problems up front, the Chargers are not getting the type of pass rush they had hoped for. The team is finding sacks and negatives plays elusive; the Chargers have only generated six sacks through four games - that ties them for 4th lowest in the league. Denver's OLB Elvis Dumervil has eight sacks on his own.
In terms of the Chargers' secondary, tackling continues to be a weak-point. Perhaps Antonio Cromartie would enjoy more success as the nickel back, a position he played initially in his break-out year of 2007. Antoine Cason has proven to be a far superior tackler, and his presence on the field helps in run support.
Speaking of run support, it's time for Kevin Ellison to see his reps increase. It's confounding why the Chargers keep so many running backs activated on gamedays if they don't run the ball. Ellison plays special teams as well, so the Chargers need to explore deactivating a fullback so that they can get Ellison on the field. He is a punishing tackler and he is hungry for the opportunity.
Finally, the Chargers might need to strongly consider implementing more 4-3 looks to offset their lack of a true nose tackle. I think moving Luis Castillo inside to the three-technique would allow his natural athleticism to shine. Vaughn Martin could also benefit from a more traditional defensive line position, and might make the adjustments more quickly. The Chargers have plenty of natural defensive ends in guys like Merriman, English, Phillips, and Tucker, so those players would be placed in positions where they are naturally suited.
Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera, a man who is on the last year of a contract in which he had hoped to parlay into a head coaching job somewhere, needs to work some magic if he hopes to improve his stock. Perhaps drawing on his 4-3 background would benefit the Chargers' current personnel while at the same time causing opponents to throw away much of their scouting film as the Chargers present different looks not seen in San Diego for years.
Either way, the San Diego Chargers have to use the bye week to quickly steer their ship off the crash course they are heading towards. 2-2 is just as unacceptable as the 13-13 record the Chargers have compiled over the past 26 games, and something needs to be done to spark these Bolts.
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