The San Diego Chargers have an explosive offense that is led by one of the NFL’s best QBs and features playmakers up and down the depth chart. They also have a solid offensive line. But with the Vikings set to face the Chargers in the season opener this Sunday, we also can’t forget about their defense.
Because their offense is high profile and high scoring, San Diego’s defense is often overlooked. But they are more than worthy of attention. In fact, San Diego’s defense ranked #1 in the NFL last year in yards allowed, including #1 against the pass and #4 against the run. Only 1 team – the Pittsburgh Steelers – registered more sacks than San Diego’s 47 last year and only 3 teams saw QBs generate a worse passer rating against them.
The Chargers have a new Defensive Coordinator in Greg Manusky. He’s actually not entirely new because he was the team’s LBs coach from 2002-06 before leaving to become San Francisco’s Defensive Coordinator from 2007-10. He’s now back with the Chargers and he’ll continue to run the team’s 3-4 defensive scheme, but there will likely be changes within the scheme that are unique to Manusky’s style and preferences. The players’ ability to adjust to those changes and execute Manusky’s plan will dictate whether or not San Diego’s defense in 2011 can be as good as it was in 2010.
In 2006 the Chargers led the NFL in sacks with 61 and Manusky’s LB group was responsible for 42.5 of those sacks. This year it looks as if the Chargers will feature the following four LBs as starters: Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler on the inside and Shaun Phillips and Travis LaBoy on the outside. San Diego has pretty good depth at the position as well, with Stephen Cooper a reserve on the inside and Antwan Barnes, Na’il Diggs, Larry English and youngster Darryl Gamble on the outside. Along the defensive line, DE Luis Castillo is a game-changer and his fellow starting DE – Corey Liuget – is a rookie who looks to have a promising season ahead.
Elsewhere on the defense, you’ll recognize the names of starting CBs Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer and then starting safeties Bob Sanders and Eric Weddle. Of this group, Sanders is the new face. He was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts from 2004-10, and he would’ve garnered many more of those accolades had injuries not plagued him.
The Chargers defense will be interesting to watch this week and the rest of this season. They’re talented and have played well in recent seasons, but they also feature five new starters and a new coordinator. From my viewpoint, the Chargers are a big, physical defense that is stout against the run. They have big CBs and their front seven is formidable.
The question for this Sunday’s matchup between the Vikings offense and San Diego’s defense is whether or not the Vikings can establish the run. If Adrian Peterson and the offensive line can get it going, the Vikings will be able to move the ball on the ground and mix in the play-action pass with 13-year veteran QB Donovan McNabb calling the shots. This is the equation the Vikings need to beat San Diego because it’ll keep San Diego’s explosive offense off the field.
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