San Diego Chargers Must Be Open To Changes On Defense

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.

October 7, 2009

Join our team:


Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 4:13:00 PM

I would be really excited to see the chargers switch to a 4-3 , without jWal we simply can't run a 3-4, watch the n tackle in games get's pushed around all game , we need this switch

Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 4:33:00 PM

I agree almost wholeheartedly on the topic. Whether it be a one or two gap responsibility, the nose (or zero) must consistently dominate the A-gap and too often the Chargers' personnel gets rooted out.

There are ways to ease this kind of transition, though. I would propose running more double-eagle fronts, with two stand up, flexed five-techs and under fronts. Each would allow the Chargers to utilize their more athletic players on the edges and minimize any hope on the opposing offense's part of out-flanking the defense.

The Chargers don't run a *true* 34 anyway, might as well mix in varying principles.

Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 4:38:00 PM

In addition to the above post (I'm anonymous @ 4:33 pm), I'd like to add that Rivera did, in fact, call for more double-eage fronts during the Steelers game. Each time Big Ben called out "solid" at the LOS, he was re-numbering this protection against the aforementioned front.

Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 5:18:00 PM

BoltHype wrote " For reasons unknown, the Chargers have been unable to develop true depth behind Jamal Williams and are now paying the price" My response: Ummm the 'uknown' reason is obvious. AJ Smith has never drafted a run stuffing DT in the first round, ie Vince Wilfork. These dominat DTs are drafted in the first round. Not the 4th like Vaughn Martin. Every draft I have been waiting for AJ to pick up a Haloti Ngata type guy. There is no mystery here, AJ, who admiries the NE Pats so much, forgot a critical part of the Pats blueprint is the first round nose tackle. I remember in the preseason he was talking about how much he liked his roster... WRONG. Stop blaming people AJ it's your fault.

Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 5:37:00 PM

Excellent article, I've often wondered what Rivera would do to implement the many defensive philosophies he's learned throughout his playing and coaching careers. He will certainly need all of his creativity. Hopefully the staff will be open to new defensive looks. The many "defensive ends" on the roster will make effective DT's and the talented outside linebackers can concentrate more on rushing the passer if switched to the DE roles.

Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 9:39:00 PM

Yes, inevitably our defense will have to morph and we have seen signs of it. That I agree with.
And Jamal Williams has long been the anchor on the D-line. But even before he got hurt, our line was getting manhandled early in the game vs. Oakland. Certainly had he not gotten hurt he would have been a part of the solution in the weeks to follow but that is now a topic for next year.
Teams seem to be blowing through the left side of our line and that points to Castillo. He seems to be occasionally successful when we play two D-line man. Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman both played defensive end in college but both were tweeners. I think Merriman would be salvageable at end but not until he is healthy. English is definitely a tweener.
Lastly, the chargers haven't had elite 3-4 NT's available to them in the last 3 drafts. I believe they had other players valued much higher than the NT's available when they picked. I have seen some good signs from Nwagbuo and Martin but they were blown off the line too many times against Pittsburgh.
Bottom line we are not an elite team as we had hoped but let's hope that we can still get there.
Atleast we have shown some resilience.


Anonymous said... Oct 7, 2009, 11:37:00 PM

they can't switch to a 4-3. chargers were built for a 3-4 defense. AJ smith needs to look into trading for a NT and giving up a draft pick. the chargers can't wait for nwagbuo and martin to develop into proper NT for the 3-4.

also, although ellison does hit like a truck, he's not that great in coverage. he'll get burned.

maybe rivera wasn't what the chargers needed as a DC. his soft zone coverage last game, and his exotic pass rush scheme's (or lack there of) is killing us. moreover, AJ should be on the hotseat as well. not properly addressing our key needs, i.e. - SS,OT,RB.

i agree with Cro. he needs to be benched and put in nikcel. that guy can't hit for sh*t.

Anonymous said... Oct 8, 2009, 3:40:00 PM

cromartie was bitching about rivera's scheme and saying thats why he got picked on by the steelers. what a bitch. quit holding recievers every play, make a tackle and shut the fuck up cromartie. rivera needs to know his personnel and change the defense to accomodate for their weaknesses, because obviously they have many and they arent getting it done.

Anonymous said... Oct 11, 2009, 12:07:00 PM

The Offense is great, adjustments on the right side of the offensive line would suffice. The defense on the other hand is in deep trouble without a premier DT, the Chargers wait. I am a hard charger fan i think, and honestly trading shawne for two premier defensive linemen(richard seymore, williams from minnesota) would be great. We now have a very well equiped Larry English who would be good on the outside.

Anonymous said... Oct 12, 2009, 12:12:00 AM

It sucks that the big fella Williams went down so early in the season.Merriman also is obviously not back to full strength yet.I think going to the 4 man front at certain times of the game might help,but the thing I want to know is why the hell we don't blitz more?It alway's seems we start off games letting teams gash the hell out of us for huge running yardage and end up in a hole that the offense has to try and dig us out of.Then later on like late 2nd quarter we start mixing things up and giving teams acouple different looks and things look up a little bit.Try doing that right from the start of the game please.And if we have to give up some picks to try to beef up the D-line do it now,don't let the best years of rivers career slip away like LT's did.GO BOLTS!!

Mark said... Oct 12, 2009, 1:50:00 PM

So far, Merriman has not improved his stock so I'm calling it now, "bye-bye Merriman." As much as I liked him as a player, he just doesn't have the same impact anymore. I don't see a scenario that AJ re-signs him unless he plays "lights-out" the rest of the season (no pun intended). Maybe he's still hurting. And he didn't help his cause by barking back at AJ, although I thought he was right in that Aj shouldn't criticize the team in the press.

Anonymous said... Oct 13, 2009, 9:01:00 AM

Excuse me?!? Why *SHOULDN'T* A.J. be able to "criticize" the team he is responsible for managing in the press?!? Besides that fact (post-Pittsburgh)that it simply proves he's got 20/20 vision, no one is more qualified to answer for the whole football operation than the GM. And although he called the defense (among other things) "soft" in that game (which they most certainly were!!!), he never named a specific player or individual to ridicule.
It's Merriman who is an ass for doing the opposite, and challenging the veracity of a specific person (A.J.), and especially foolish for doing so to the man who's mostly responsible for him even being here. Besides being astonishingly stupid and jerk-knee in the social arena, Merriman is in serious danger of becoming a "former" somebody, instead morphing into just another surly, unemployed sh*thead. And although he's already a multi-millionaire, if he thinks his good looks, passable commentating, and previous gridiron accomplishment are enough to keep the Gravy Train running for very long, he's sadly mistaken. Pay attention "Light's Out", in show business guys like you are changed like light bulbs.

Post a Comment

What's your take? Registration is not required but we encourage you guys to at least use some sort of screen name to help identify one another in discussions. Use Name/URL If You Don't Sign In Please!


Newer Post Older Post Home Page

This Week's Popular Posts


  Pro Football Talk

  USA Today

  San Diego Union - Tribune

  Yahoo! Sports

  ESPN - AFC West

  FOX Sports