Damn, that's a nice suit. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
3rd Down Defense
What has A.J. Smith been stressing in his offseason radio interviews has been improving the Chargers' 3rd down defense, which was the worst in the league last year. Atari Bigby and Jarret Johnson probably don't help that much, except for possibly helping to create more "3rd & long" situations, but Melvin Ingram does.
This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. If you've asked me what the Chargers' biggest weakness was sometime in the last year, you've probably gotten the answer "pass rush" from me. It's been a serious problem, especially when Shaun Phillips missed more than a month due to injury. With Phillips, Antwan Barnes, Larry English and Ingram, the Chargers potentially have 4 very dangerous pass-rushers for John Pagano to play with.
Mark Barron was gone and it was too early to take Harrison Smith, despite the gaping hope the Chargers have at SS. Ingram was considered by many to be a Top 10 pick, so this is a Best Player Available selection and will get lots of kudos around the league. The truth of the matter is, without a SS available that was worthy of the #18 pick the Chargers had to go with the Best Player Available and it happened to be one that filled one of their needs (3rd down pass rusher).
I know I've brought this up before, but it always seems like the Chargers are gameplanning for last year when it comes to injuries. "Was our defensive line beat up last year? Better load up on defensive linemen this year!" That type of stuff. With all the injuries to OLB last season, the Chargers have loaded themselves with more talent and healthy bodies than they know what to do with at that position for 2012. This will be key if Shaun Phillips or Jarret Johnson (who will both be 31 at the start of the season) have to miss a game.
This goes along with the talk earlier about my response when someone would ask what the Chargers' biggest weakness was. The Chargers have lacked a defensive playmaker, a real difference maker, since Jeff Fisher took out Shawne Merriman's knee in the playoffs. Melvin Ingram is a true playmaker, someone who can do it all and seems to have a nose for the football.
(Now, full disclosure. I really liked Melvin Ingram last season at South Carolina. A few months ago, I started watching whatever video I could of him on YouTube. Something stood out to me when I did: Melvin Ingram wasn't that great of a pass-rusher. What I mean is, he had a great motor and is very smart about which direction to go and those things ended up in him putting up good numbers. However, from what I saw, he almost never beat a player around the outside, didn't show much in the way of pass-rush "moves" and wasn't really pushing offensive tackles backwards.
He's a guy that got most of his sacks through not giving up on the play, or at least that's what I saw from watching videos of him on YouTube. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm very okay with that. It just makes me wonder how that will translate to the NFL.)
Your first day in the NFL and you have a secret handshake with the Commissioner? That's cool. That's confident. That's swag. I can't wait to see Melvin's sack dance.