San Diego Chargers Defensive Analysis

Ed LeeCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2009

SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 30: Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers gets ready to move at the snap during the game against the San Francisco 49ers on August 30, 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

About a week ago, I wrote an analysis on the offensive side of the ball of the current San Diego Chargers team. Now, I'm going to shift my focus and write an analysis on the defensive side of the ball.

The defense is what failed us last year. Whenever we had a chance to wrap it up, we screwed up on defense. We missed our best defensive player in Merriman, but saying how our defense failed miserably just because of his absence is pathetic. Our defense couldn't hold on 3rd downs, and stayed on the field for so long. Hopefully with Merriman back, our defense will be back to the 2006~2007 form again.

So here we go, position by position.

D-Line: DE- We have Luis Castillo on the right side. He had some injury issues and he was a major disappointment, but he's a force when healthy and rolling.

We lost Igor Olshansky through FA, but it really shouldn't matter. He was lazy and only played to his true potential only when the team was good. However, filling in his hole might be a bit tough.

We have Jaques Cecaire, and Ryon Bingham, who are very hard workers, and they work their butts off when on the field. However having them as starters show that we have no depth at the end position. I expect to hit this position in the 1st round of the draft with Tyson Jackson, or by trading down we could get Fili Moala.

As of DT, Jamal is a wall that stuffs everyone, but he is getting old, and we should start looking for a replacement soon. Or Castillo can switch back to NT, and find another player at DE.

I know this seems unlikely, but if we get Julius Peppers.. I'd CRY.

Overall Grade: B- We're getting up in age, and are injury prone. Also, our 'starters' are actually backups. We need some help here.

LB Crew: MLB- This crew was pathetic. They couldn't give a stinking tackle last year, and messed up so much. We did get a developing starter in Kevin Burnett. He was a solid 2nd MLB for Dallas, and reminds me of a young Donnie Edwards when he used to play for the Chiefs.

As of Steven Cooper, he has solid tackling ability, and good coverage skills. Still, I wish he'd stop showing off his stupid biceps and get his head in the game more. If he didn't get distracted, he'd be a mini Ray Lewis.

Dobbins showed some solid fundamentals last year. He didn't seem to be afraid to tackle, and he was always around the ball somewhere. He was the guy who sacked Manning in the Divisional game on 3rd and 1 to give us the ball back. However, he was a liability in coverage. I saw about 3 balls soaring over his head at least every game he started.

Siler was a spectacular ST player, and should be ready to move up the roster spots to get some game time. He hits HARD and he's freakishly fast. He didn't have much time to prove his coverage skills, but I expect him to be good because of his pure speed.

Matt Wilhelm... or should I say Matt Wiffhelm. I cannot believe that he was supposed to be Randal Godfrey/Donnie Edwards' replacement. He can't tackle AT ALL, and without Merriman helping him, it exposed how much of a poor player he was. I hope we cut this guy soon, because keeping him on the team wastes money, and is a hindrance to other players.

Overall Grade: C+ Cooper was the only bright spot along with Dobbins and Siler in special teams. I want to banish Wiffhelm from SD, and get some good picks late in the draft. I hope we take Jermaine Phillips from TCU. He tore his meniscus in a freak accident at the Combine. He's very talented.

OLB: This crew was better than the MLB crew. We missed dear Merriman so much this year. HE says he's stronger than ever, so expect him to cause some nightmares for the quarterbacks, and to boost our entire defense up a notch. I expect a 15 sack season from #56.

Shaun Phillips is the paradox of our defense along with Cro. We know he's good, and talented. We know that he can be the other guy that pressures the QB to give some other players breaks. However, we saw this year that he cannot be THE guy like Merriman or D. Ware, and is best as the 2nd starter. With Merriman back, expect his playing ability to go up also.

We cut Waters. I liked him. I thought we had a steal when we chose him in the draft. But, I guess not.

Jyles Tucker: I call him Mini Merriman. He has the size, speed, aggressiveness, skill, and potential. I think if we give him more playing time, he will develop. I think that the contract we offered him was premature, but he should be a solid player in the future.

Marques Harris showed some flash of talent with 2.5 sacks, and he was solid in ST. I don't think he has much upside though.

Antwan Applewhite- Wow. All I can say is wow. I had no idea who he was when the season started last year. I love him now. He's just an aggressive player with great potential and talent. He knows how to play the game, and should improve. He's also versatile, and can line up as a DE if he bulks up a bit more. I'd keep him at OLB and let him become a beast.

Overall Grade: A. This is our best defensive position. Hands down. And, some of our players are very versatile.

Secondary: This is where we failed MISERABLY. Even when we had a pass rush in a few games, these guys couldn't get picks, stop the receivers from catching the ball, etc. We allowed 300 yards to Tyler Thigpen(Twice), Drew Brees, Jay Cutler(Twice), Manning, Matt Ryan, Big Ben, and a few other guys. We allowed a total of 11 300+ passing yard games. That's HORENDOUS.

CB: Jammer- He's our best DB. He had a solid year, and really should have been sent to the pro bowl. Everyone underrates him because he doesn't get enough INTs, but he's a great player, and stepped up as the Defensive Leader with Merriman's absence.

Cromartie: What happened to this guy? I personally have no idea. He hated being aggressive, and he hated to get messy and tackle players. He smiled when we basically lost because of him in a few games, and I think allowing Brandon Marshall for 18 receptions killed his mental strength for the whole season.

He started the season saying he was gonna get 15 picks. He ended up getting a measly 2 against Brett Favre and his crazy "Fire into Double Coverage" passing game. I think he had an off year. I really do. I HOPE he did. He has 1 more year to prove to us that he is the player from 2007, and not 2008. I hope he returns a few kicks like he did in 2007 too. That should motivate him more.

Cason: We hit the jackpot when we drafted him. He was everywhere where the ball was. He showed some good hands, and tipped a few passes here and there. He showed that he could tackle, and I think he should be our 2nd corner next year and put Cro as our nickel back to give him that motivation and confidence he needs.

Safety: Clinton Hart- Talk about disappointment. He couldn't cover at all, couldn't tackle at all, and his neck rolls looked stupid. He eventually was benched for Paul Oliver. Good decision Ron.

Eric Weddle- We gave up a lot to get him, but I think he was worth it. He showed fantastic acceleration, and led our team in tackles with 108. He was around the ball where ever it went, and showed that he could pick off passes too. He should be our FS for years to come.

Steve Gregory- I am in bewilderment that he is listed as a safety in our roster. He can't tackle. He SIMPLY CANNOT TACKLE! He couldn't get Willie Parker down, and he's physically bigger, stronger, and bulkier than him. Parker owned him with a single stiff arm, and he fell like a baby. I hope he developes.

Paul Oliver- He can play. He knows how to pick passes off, and he knows how to tackle. He started the final 2 games of the season, and had 17 tackles and an interception. That's 8.5 tackles a game. He intercepted Cutler's laser beam like it was made of glue. I think I'd give him a year to develop into his full potential, but starting him over Hart with Merriman coming back is also a good idea.

Overall Grade: B We have potential. I hope Ron develops them, and I hope we get a good safety in the later rounds of the draft.

Rising Stars: Paul Oliver, Antwan Applewhite, Luis Castillo, Antwan Cason, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Weddle, Brandon Silers, Tim Dobbins, and Kevin Burnett.

Overall Defensive Grade: B. Hopefully with Merriman back, we can be a top 15~10 defense again. Also, I hope we address the defense with the 1st 5 rounds of the draft along with the O Line. With Ron Rivera as the DC, and our players being young, our future in defense looks bright in SD.

Hope you enjoyed my 2nd article. Comments and tips would be greatly appreciated.


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