John Pagano is our guy.
The Chargers defensive coordinator and former linebackers coach has been running the defense like a man possessed.
With three preseason wins in a row, it’s easy to see in him the type of leadership skills and football knowledge that got his brother (Chuck Pagano) the head coaching job in Indianapolis after years of defensive dominance as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
It takes a special mind to run a 3-4 defense. Just ask Mike Shanahan, who has been chasing the 3-4 for years and is finally getting somewhere with it.
It’s definitely a complicated scheme, but this guy can run it. One of the biggest advantages to the 3-4 is how easy it is to hide pressure and mess up blocking assignments for the opposing offensive line. This Chargers unit is built for it, and Pagano is programmed to run it and run it well.
It’s not like he is new to the Bolts either. Having been the linebackers coach in San Diego for years gives him an advantage over other new coordinators.
Having been with their personnel for as long as he has means he knows what every player does well, and not-so-well. With the awkward period of getting to know the players out of the way, this coordinator has gotten right to work.
For example, you’re going to notice Takeo Spikes coming off of the field for 3rd-and-long situations. Spikes is a great leader, but he’s a liability in coverage with his lack of quickness and has a hard time making the tackle in space.
For every one of Spikes’ age related deficiencies, he brings leadership and experience to the team that more than makes up for it. Besides, Donald Butler can make the plays that Spikes can’t and has been making plays all over the field.
I was happy to see that there were no qualms from either side (players or coaches) about third down personnel, Spikes came off the field and the bolts pass defense kept the play in front of them and made the stop on most occasions.
Holding the Dallas Cowboys to 3-13 on third down was awesome. Getting the ball back for the offense and giving the defense some rest is going to pay big dividends during the regular season.
This defense has been well run so far. Players know their assignments and know where the first down markers are so they can crowd it and make the stop.
This is only the beginning. As long as the Chargers can keep drafting like they have, we’re going to see a legendary defense in San Diego one day and Pagano will be at the wheel.
For now, this unit is solid. There is depth at linebacker this year. Even Larry English is healthy! He will contribute as a situational pass rusher at the very least.
I would love to see more depth in the secondary, but that will happen through the draft. I’m not complaining. It’s going to be a good year, not to mention a great future.