While the defense has been victimized so far, it has had spurts where it has played well, particularly in the second half. These are the folks I think need to step it up if the Bolts are going to see some more defensive stops.
Cromartie via www.nancarrow-webdesk.com
Who would have thought that we would be talking about Cromartie needing to step it up? Even last year he was a gambler, but his risks paid off more often than not. His play against Carolina was aggressive, but several attempted picks ended up as long gainers. While you can't complain too much about that, against Denver he was completely owned by Brandon Marshall. Targeted 20 times, Marshall caught 18. In addition to that Cromartie was also flagged for a face mask, tackling out of bounds and in general was just awful the entire first half. He could be seen jawing at Marshall and was clearly completely off his game. He does have a hip injury, how much that contributed is hard to say, but Cromartie really needs to step up this week against one of the great passing QBs in NFL history.
Last year Wilhelm had a slow start at the inside linebacker position, he was slightly injured then. This season there seems to be no injury, but his play has been very tentative, he has been taking bad angles and been largely ineffective. In one preseason game he just got completely run over by the RB, that is something you just don't expect to see. During the preseason I thought it had to do with how little Jamal Williams was playing at nose tackle, but even with Jamal in there he has looked weak. Stephen Cooper is still out and he will make a difference when he comes back, but some of the fault has to hang on Wilhelm. Folks are talking about how much more aggressive Dobbins was in relief of Wilhelm, look for him to take more playing time from Wilhelm this week.
You can see flashes of the old Jamal, but overall he doesn't always seem to dominate the line of scrimmage as he has in the past. The Chargers are definitely better with him in there, but he isn't getting the same kind of penetration that he did in 2006. The backups Bingham and McKinney are a downgrade, I'm still not sure what the thinking was in letting Divens go, he was quickly claimed by the Ravens. The Chargers are going to have to use a high draft pick to find his heir apparent in the next draft, if not pull off a trade. The nose tackle is absolutely irreplaceable in making for an effective 3-4 defense. It may be the lack of preseason playing time that is partially to blame, but Jamal's knees are clearly going to be the pacing item on his play from here on out.
With his new contract, you might have expected a burst of output, but thus far he has had no sacks and just six tackles. No sacks is one thing, but he is also not collapsing the pocket, QBs have been very comfortable back there. In part you can lay that off to good offensive line play by Denver and Carolina, but he has just not been bringing the heat as he has in past seasons. The same could be said for Olshansky, but I haven't ever been as impressed by Olshansky.