Scattered throughout social media concerning the 2-6 Chargers are endless rants about the offense. The porous and oft-injured line, the lack of a running game and the vanilla play calling takes center stage from the voices of the fans.
As true as these perspectives may be, there seems to be an obvious concern that not too many are jawing about. Simply put….
The Chargers cannot stop anybody.
Philip Rivers leads an offense ranked 8th in most points scored with 191. That averages out to 23.9 points per game. Furthermore, San Diego leads all NFL teams in total yards with 3,386 (423.3 per game).
Of course, there are many questions to be asked when comparing these stats with the overall record. Most fans have come up with their own solutions: Fire Frank Reich. Fire Mike McCoy.
I am not here to argue with any of you who voice this sentiment. I am, however, needing to point out a prominent dysfunction with San Diego’s defense.
Ranked 27th in points allowed (28.4 per game), the Chargers players are either ill-equipped to handle the task at hand, or their leader continually is over-matched and out-coached.
What is your opinion? Is it Pagano or the players?
Let us take a quick statistical snapshot.
According to pro-football-reference.com, since 2012, when John Pagano took the reins as the defensive coordinator, the defense has not ranked any higher than 11th. Pagano’s defense is currently ranked 27th, and it shows.
With the Bolts giving up five yards a carry to opposing running backs, they are tied for dead last in that category. The defense has given up 124.6 yards per game on the ground, moving them up to 27th overall.
Opponents thus far have completed 64.75% of their passes against the Chargers’ defense, ranking them 19th overall. Adding fuel to the fire, this same defense is giving up 12.1 yards per completion, ranking them 30th overall.
Needing to find a silver lining with all these statistical rankings, I was able to notice that Pagano’s defense currently ranks 10th overall in holding teams to a 35.96% third down conversion rate. The 2014 team, in comparison, allowed their opponent to convert 43% of third down attempts.
When the Chargers are behind, it is the offense that has to get them back into the game. They must overemphasize time of possession, moving the chains and putting points on the board. If San Diego is ahead in the game, it is up to the defense to secure the victory. With two squeezed-out wins thus far, it appears that the majority of the problem is on the defensive side of the ball. The offense, who definitely has their own issues, is still putting points on the board and moving the ball, despite their lack of a formidable running attack. Pagano and his defense just can’t stop their opponents.
This defensive unit has stars: Jason Verrett, Corey Liuget, Melvin Ingram, just to name a few. Injuries can certainly be relevant to their struggles, however it can no longer be the crutch that Pagano seems to use. His base scheme is a 3-4, but it is run more like a 4-3. He utilizes the talent he has and plugs them into different packages to offset what the offense does.
One of the main issues of the defensive unit is the fact that they give up far more “explosive” plays than they should. Big, game-changing plays have turned the momentum to the opposing team’s favor far too often, and multiple times within individual games. These plays have occurred due to a multitude of reasons: blown coverages, poor tackling, missed assignments and vanilla play calling. The team rushes four players or less an inexplicable amount of times, making it difficult to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
So, once again, I ask for your opinion…
Is it the players or is it the coach?
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott