San Diego Chargers: Shift In Defense Should Help Return To Elite Status

Glenn CravensContributor IMay 14, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera of the San Diego Chargers looks on against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 23, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

With new player additions and a new coordinator, the San Diego Chargers' defense should look a little bit different, and perhaps more dangerous.

If they look like the Chicago Bears of 2006, credit that to Ron Rivera.

As the defensive coordinator of the Chargers, Rivera will be asked to improve a defense that never cracked the top 10 in any of the major defensive categories last season.

It might be a simple shift in the defensive structure, plus some new and old faces in the defense, that will help matters.

It's sorely needed; San Diego's biggest drop-off defensively last season came in the sacks department. They amassed only 28 sacks last season, good for 22nd in the league. They also were second-to-last against the pass, giving up nearly 250 yards per game.

Rivera will likely use the 4-3 defense which he used in Chicago. In 2004 under Rivera's guidance, the Bears were the second-best defense in the league. Two years later, the defense was just as strong, as it reached the Super Bowl with a 40-sack performance.

With Shawne Merriman coming back and incoming rookies Larry English (defensive end) and Vaughn Martin (defensive tackle), the San Diego defense should benefit from Rivera's gameplans.

However, a lot will ride on English to learn the formation so he and Merriman can maximize it. Regardless of where they are in the middle field, both players will probably go for broke at the quarterback. Other times, one of them will go in, while the other stays back and covers the center field. But this team will probably think blitz, blitz and something else called blitz.

Keeping consistent pressure on teams should prevent opponents from trying to gain any easy advantage on the Chargers.

San Diego's defense last season couldn't hold its own when it came to potential yardage percentage (yards a team could have gained during the game). Against the five playoff teams the Chargers played, the average defensive PYP was 54.97 percent, nowhere near the team's overall average (47.38 percent). The Chargers lost all five games.

Changing defensive styles might increase defensive production and hold opponents at bay. It will be up to Rivera to lead the charge.