Melvin Ingram a Key to New Chargers Defensive Coordinator Pagano's Success

Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 21, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 11:  NFL Rookie Melvin Ingram #54 of the San Diego Chargers runs through drills during a minicamp workout on May 11, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images

The Chargers defense declined last year under new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and he took the fall at the end of the season. In a twist that could inspire a conspiracy theory, longtime linebackers coach John Pagano took over Manusky's job, while he went to work for John's brother Chuck as the defensive coordinator of the Colts.

Little brother will have to inject fire into this flagging defense, and an undersized end the Chargers drafted to play in Pagano's territory—linebacker—could be the sparkplug.

Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Ingram has "steadily impressed" since joining the team. Head coach Norv Turner made Ingram sound like an A student, calling him a "fast learner" with an "outstanding work ethic" and "great instincts".

Turner went on say that the team was going to give Ingram "all he can handle," which is where Pagano comes in. General manager AJ Smith is getting too used to hiring new defensive coordinators, but that isn't going to stop him from trusting Pagano. Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa writes that Smith said the defense will be Pagano's "identity" and "his name will be all over it".

Pagano may want to change the spelling of name to I-N-G-R-A-M, although the first-rounder hasn't been "all over" the defense. Instead, he has been focusing on playing strong-side linebacker, splitting reps with free agent acquisition Jarret Johnson, according to Gehlken. Pagano's most important job this summer is to deploy Ingram as everything from defensive tackle to a linebacker that drops into coverage instead of rushing the passer. 

Ingram won't flourish as a pure edge rusher because his short arms allow offensive tackles to keep him at bay. Pagano's ability to put him in one-on-one situations with less nimble and long guards and centers could define Ingram's success as a pass rusher. Pagano's ability to use Ingram's versatility to disguise blitzes and coverage schemes could define Pagano's success as a coordinator. 

No matter how it turns out, the performance of both will be a big part of determining whether the Chargers cool down opposing offenses or turn the heat up under AJ Smith's seat this year.