Last year was John Pagano’s first season as a Defensive coordinator in the NFL.  Overall, it is safe to say that his performance garnered mixed reviews.

If you were to break down his year into quarters, there was probably no chance at pulling out a late comeback in what would be considered the fourth quarter of last season. What I mean by that is he had a tough go of it for, roughly, the first 10 games of the 2012 campaign.  His play-calling was very vanilla and left a lot to be desired.  As a defensive play-caller he chose to play not to lose, so to speak.  I wanted to throw up every time I saw the base defense line up in that soft shell cover 3 or cover 2 with Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason playing between 7 and 10 yards off of the line of scrimmage.  Sure, there are situations in which that may make some sense.  But it ignores the beauty of the 3-4 defense.

The 3-4 allows you to be ultra-creative, if you so choose, in getting after the opposing team’s signal-callers.  You are able to generate pressure from multiple positions that a 4-3 would not allow you to without giving up big plays.  When used properly, or aggressively, if you will,  the scheme can be used to get pressure even when you don’t have elite pass rushers.

See the 2013 Chargers.

Despite the addition of the 33-year-old Dwight Freeney, the Bolts are lacking in the dynamic pass rusher category.  Jarrett Johnson, albeit extremely solid in run support and setting the edge, is not going to be confused for a sack master.  Larry English has flashed the ability to get to the Quarterback at times, but I’m not sure San Diego can depend on him or his health.  The team invested their sixth round selection in this year’s draft on FIU Defensive End, Tourek Williams.  He will be asked to stand up as an Outside Linebacker in Pagano’s 3-4.  I have high hopes for Tourek, but it is yet to be seen how he’ll handle the transition from hand on the ground DE in college to stand up OLB in the NFL.

It has been said that the team will use multiple defensive alignments in its base defense.  The Chargers, unbeknownst to many fans, ran a good amount of ‘4-3 over’ last season.  The addition of Freeney certainly leads me to believe that this will be the case in 2013, as well.

In a division that has that one guy named Manning, it is imperative to get pressure as a defense in order for the team to succeed.  Many people continue to talk up San Diego’s defense which ranked 9th in 2012.  Numbers can be deceiving.  As a defense, the team was pathetic at getting off of the field on third down and showed it by ranking 29th in that category.  They also allowed the 4th most plays of 40 yards or more in the entire NFL with 11.  Here’s a quick look at some other stats from the defense in 2012.


Team Defense:  9th

Rushing Defense:   6th

Passing Defense: 18th

Scoring Defense:  16th (21.9)

As I mentioned above, stats can be deceiving.  The run defense proved to be pretty stout but we gave up big chunks of yards through the air.  When you are in the middle of the pack defensively versus the pass and in scoring defense, you can expect to finish in the middle of the league or worse record-wise.  That is not going to cut it.

I am one of the fans that holds out much hope for Pagano.  I am not giving him a “pass” for last year, but I am going to wait and see how 2013 plays out.  My hope is that this year is called more similarly to the final 5 or 6 games of last season as opposed to the majority of 2012.

Although it is still as early as training camp, Marty Caswell shared a tweet about Philip Rivers chiming in during a Pagano interview with Darren Smith.  Let’s all hope that Pagano pays no attention to what Philip is requesting of him.

Especially on Sundays.





Booga Peters

3 Responses to Aggressive play-calling must be the plan for Pagano in 2013

  • Pete Spinning says:

    I agree, Booga. I have hopes that Pagano has had time to watch the film, see the mistakes of last year, and overcome those horrible 3rd down stats mentioned above. After all, that is pretty much what Manusky was fired for, and it didn’t get better under Pags. That vanilla play calling has to change this year. We have great players up front, and they need to be used creatively. If not.. sorry Pags.. but, we need to get someone who WILL use them creatively.

  • OPBolt says:

    Booga – I’m cheating. I actually left this on an earlier article asking how we felt about the defense. It sorta fits here, so I have “repurposed” it.

    For the coach – glad you’re back. Here’s what frosts me the most – not holding onto leads and not holding onto big leads drives me insane. Let’s be honest, the defense collapsed several times last year and cost the team some wins (NO, Denver, Baltimore, anyway you know the ones). I know that the team takes its emotional lead from the head coach, and that was always one of Norv’s weak points. But there are plenty of examples of DCs who have rallied, driven, flogged, …, their side to do heroic work. You need to find a way to inspire, inflame, or whatever is needed to match the intensity of the offense when they become desperate. In my opinion this is a coaching and player leadership issue. Sometimes the defense simply must rise up and DOMINATE.

    I like our big boys in the middle. If they are as good as projected, I think their added pressure on the pocket is going to help a middling outside pass rush. I think we will need to keep all 3 NTs, because we will need frequent rotations as they get gassed going against faster paced offenses (e.g., Denver x2, KC x2, Philly, DC, …). The ILBs appear to be pretty serviceable.

    I don’t know what to think about our DBs yet, except that, like the OL, I suspect they will be at least be better than last year (I hope?). Depth is questionable.

    OLBs are still a real question in my mind. Both starters are too limited, and neither appears to be particularly good in pass defense, which is going to be difficult to paper over against QBs like Manning. The dropoff from starter to first backup seems to be pretty steep. Depth is questionable.

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