Ron Rivera had a pretty daunting task when the Chargers named him their new defensive coordinator at the midway point of the 2008 season.
The Chargers ranked last in the league in pass defense when they fired Ted Cottrell. Under Rivera, the defense was hardly perfect, but it showed a vast second-half improvement, reducing the number of passing yards, scrimmage yards, and total points allowed.
While Rivera was able to make his players buy into his mantra easier than Cottrell, he also started rewriting the defensive playbook without tweaking alignment, creating a much simpler, less confusing scheme for the second half.
Rivera is known for his creativity with the 4-3 scheme. The Chargers do not plan on adopting this alignment, but Rivera has incorporated plays from his 4-3 playbook into the 3-4.
This will be Rivera's first full year as the Chargers' defensive coordinator.
And unlike the second half of last season, Rivera has some time this offseason to completely rewrite a defensive playbook. With impending games each week, Rivera was limited with what he could do each week to tweak his playbook.
The former Chicago Bears linebacker has completely overhauled his staff, hiring four new assistant coaches to refine a playbook and rebuild a philosophy.
Steve Wilks, who was Rivera's defensive backs coach in Chicago, will take over for Bill Bradley. Wilks will have former NFL defensive back Cris Dishman as his new assistant secondary coach.
Taking over for Wayne Nunnely as the defensive line coach is Don Johnson, Rivera's line coach in Chicago.
Rivera, who started last season as the inside linebackers coach, hired Greg Williams for this role in 2009.
Needless to say, it's a completely new staff that will be committed to not have a reprise of 2008.
The defensive unit will hope for vastly improved results, yet a scheme that remains familiar. But learning is what minicamp and summer camp are for.
Since coaching and conditioning sessions have already started, the Bolts' defensive corps have likely already started familiarizing themselves with Rivera's new philosophy and coaches.
Rivera put a good stamp on the second half of last season, as the Bolts improved in several categories, and with a full offseason with Rivera at the helm, their defensive playbook and mindset only figures to become clearer.