There is without a doubt that the San Diego Chargers will miss defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. Rivera wasn't blitz crazy and nor was he passive in his scheme. What Rivera was is a great defensive strategist. If he sees a team that is pass crazy, he'll attack them with multiple zone blitzing from any position on the field. If the Chargers had the lead, he had the ability to play passive in his play-calling versus being aggressive in blitzing. He was a great defensive coach and made the most out of every player on the Chargers defensive roster.
Replacing Ron Rivera will be former 49ers' defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
Manusky is not Ron Rivera. He's isn't the strategist type. Every coach that plays against Manusky knows what he's going to do against them. Manusky could care less if they know. He's a straight out ultra aggressive play-caller in his scheme and philosophy. Manusky believes in blitzing and forcing turnovers. He wasn't that successful in with the 49ers but that has more to do with the 49ers having a inadequate offense and not having a deep capable defensive group of players. Manusky won't find that problem in San Diego with the Chargers.
Manusky runs a defense very similar to that of a old Charger defensive coordinator, practically nearly identical. That defensive coordinator is Wade Phillips. It shouldn't surprise you why the defense is nearly identical as Manusky was the LB's coach under Wade Phillips defensive coaching staff during his time in San Diego from 2002-2006.
We could easily see what to expect under Manusky's next season since we know he runs a defense as aggressive as Wade Phillips. There are some players that haven't played up to par under Ron Rivera or Ted Cottrell's scheme but let it be known, there are going to be a revival in some of the Chargers players' careers.
Let's take a look at some of those players that are looking to make a comeback in Greg Manusky's ultra aggressive defense.
Let's be honest, Larry English has been a disappointment. But here is the truth, the disappointment shouldn't be in his ability to play football; he could play. The disappointment lay in his ability to stay healthy.
Larry English was drafted in 2009 not to be a drop back, zone coverage, type of OLB. English was drafted to be a pure pass rushing specialist. He proved he can pressure QB's during games he did play. He shown it numerous types. Sure he didn't get the sacks but here is how he'll do it with Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator.
If English stays healthy, he'll get sacks left and right due to one reason, Manusky will dial up blitz and blitz from both OLB's. During Ron Rivera's scheme, how often did he blitz from both sides of the defense? Not often. Ron Rivera's scheme won't blitz both sides if it takes away from the integrity of the zone coverage.
Proof is in the pudding as they say so the best example I can back up my argument is that in Wade Phillips scheme, Shawne Merriman demanded the attention of opposing offensive linemen giving Shaun Phillips sacks often. Shaun Phillips over time, especially this 2010 season, proved he can be that force that Merriman was. Seeing how Phillips will demand majority of the attention, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see English explode this season, especially if he stays healthy in Greg Manusky's scheme.
Look to Larry English to have a great season next season if healthy as many teammates say that he has the fastest get off on a blitz, reminds me of someone that played opposite of Merriman back in Wade Phillips scheme don't it.
Kevin Burnett looks like a absolute animal in this picture slide. Good thing he had a animal-like year under Ron Rivera's scheme this season. You must be wondering how will Burnett be any better in Greg Manusky's scheme versus the scheme he just played in, I'll explain.
Burnett knows Greg Manusky's defense. It's the same exact defense he played in as a back-up ILB in Dallas with the Cowboys under Manusky's "teacher", Wade Phillips. To keep the reasoning behind why I believe Burnett will be even better next season, just look at how well he performed as a back-up during the same scheme Manusky will bring back to San Diego.
In 2007, appearing in 16 games but only starting twice during that season, Burnett put up 53 combined tackles, defended two passes, and one force fumble.
In 2008, Burnett played in 16 games, only starting twice. In that season, Burnett put up 38 combined tackles, two sacks, three defended passes, and one force fumble.
Without a doubt, this past 2010 season proved that Burnett is the best weak-side coverage LB the Chargers had since Donnie Edwards.
Since essentially Burnett will play the exact same role that Edwards played in the past under the same exact scheme, he should have similar statistics to go with it.
Edwards had 128 tackles, five pass defended, and five interceptions in 2002.
In 2003, Edwards combined for 161 tackles, 0.5 sacks, six pass defended, two interceptions, and one force fumble.
In 2004, Edwards combined for 150 tackles, one sack, eight pass defended, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
In 2005, Edwards had 152 tackles, three sacks, nine pass defended, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
In Edwards' last season as a Chargers player back in 2006, Edwards tallied a combined 141 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four pass defended, three interceptions, and two fumbles.
You can easily see that Burnett can easily put up those numbers and should excel greatly under Manusky's scheme just like Donnie Edwards did for Wade Phillips.
The player that will most benefit from DC Manuksy's arrival is Luis Casillo. The reason is fairly simple. In Manusky's scheme, he often blitz from every direction with a multitude of players from every position. The most normal blitz that Manusky will run is having both OLB's blitzing in at the same time.
The reason why all the blitz will help Castillo is that the usual two offensive linemen that would block him as a 3-4 defensive end would now have to take into account the outside pressure. In essence, that'll leave Castillo going one on one against a opposing lineman and that's a battle he'll win majority of the time. Castillo just have too much talent for any one man to block him in the run or the pass. This is why he dominated under DC Wade Phillips, the DC that Manusky learned his scheme from.
In San Francisco, 49ers' DE Justin Smith had a outstanding season under Manusky's scheme as he tallied 70 combined tackles, 8.5 sacks, one pass defended, and one forced fumble in 2010. In the previous season before that in 2009, Smith had 55 combined tackles, six sacks, one pass defended, and two forced fumble. In 2008, Smith tallied 73 combined tackles, seven sacks, three pass defended, one interception, and one forced fumble.
Castillo played his first two seasons in the same similar aggressive defensive scheme. In his rookie season back in 2005, Castillo started 15 games in which he posted 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three pass defended, and one force fumble. In his second season, Castillo progressed into one of the best 3-4 defensive ends as he started nine games out 10 games during the season, posting a ridiculous 37 tackles, seven sacks, and one interception.
Castillo is a lot more older now and more mature as a player. Castillo decline in play has a lot to do with defensive coordinators going away from the ultra aggressive nature of Wade Phillips where Castillo excelled in. Look for Castillo to finally earn his money this season.
That's a bold statement I'm making about Eric Weddle next season. Sure he hasn't have the stats to back up this statement. I do, however, have a legitimate belief why he'll do greatly next season. He isn't a passive-like player, he's a smart coverage FS that hits hard. The one thing that great safeties do have is playing in a aggressive style defense.
Just look at Ravens' safety Ed Reed. He's somebody that doesn't play in the box like Polamalu but he has the ability to cover a large portion of the field due to the fact the Ravens' attack the QB with multiple blitz by their LB's.
Weddle will essentially play that role next season. The key to Weddle being successful covering a large portion of the field next season is contingent upon the Chargers front seven pressuring the opposing offense relentlessly. I believe the Chargers can do just that with the entire front seven already have proven to have the ability to pass rush.
With the help of the front seven, Weddle's job of covering a big area will be easier as QB's will force passes they don't really need to throw.
Marlon McCree played that role for one season under Wade Phillips aggressive defense and he did fairly well but the problem with McCree was that he isn't as fast as Weddle and doesn't have closing speed in coverage.
If there is one part of Weddle's statistics that will take a hit is the amount of tackles he'll make. That's okay as the one statistic that will go up will be his interceptions.
Don't be surprised if you see Weddle playing strong safety instead of free safety due to his strong ability in tackling and stuffing the run as help. Such a move wouldn't be surprising as Darrell Stucky is a player that is a ball-hawk safety but his tackling isn't proven yet in the NFL level since he was hurt all season during his rookie year.
If rumor has Quentin Jammer going to strong safety, then the Chargers will have Eric Weddle stay at free safety for sure.
This will be Weddle's first season in a ultra aggressive defense. Without a doubt he'll be something special for Greg Manusky. I'm going to call it now, Weddle will make his first Pro Bowl in Manusky's defense next season.
These are the players that I expect to have a great year. They have the surrounding players to help them succeed. They have the scheme that'll help their true talents show. For all those fans that miss the days of high risk, high reward defensive Charger football, those days are back. For all those fans that wanted Wade Phillips defense back, you now have it.
Let it be known, there are other players that will excel greatly in this defense other than these players. I didn't mention them as I was focusing on the likely players that are slotted as starters and having exceeded expectations. Players like Shaun Phillips, Antwan Barnes, and Darrel Stuckey fit the aggressive nature of Manusky's defense.
There will be some tough times for some players learning but if there is a huge plus side to this hire is the fact that Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo, Stephen Cooper, Jacques Cesaire, and Quentin Jammer have all played in this defense in the past.
Sure Stephen Cooper and Jacques Cesaire are possible free agents next season but if there is one thing that will convince AJ Smith in bringing them back is their experience in the familiar defense.
Kevin Burnett and Eric Weddle are possible free agents but their roles are too important to just let go as AJ Smith already knows they are priority this upcoming off-season. There is without a doubt that AJ Smith knows how valuable Burnett is to the team next season in Greg Manusky's defense and if there is anyone that does a good job of bringing in and keeping talent that fits the scheme, it's AJ Smith.
I'm happy Greg Manusky got hired. It's a common sense hire. Manusky will have the perfect fit in San Diego as he'll have everything he didn't have to work with in San Francisco, a offense and a talented defensive roster. The defensive roster may need some minor changes but in the end, look to these players to have big Pro-Bowl like years in 2011.