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Defensive Analysis: San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints hosted the Chargers on Sunday Night Football and emerged victorious. While questionable officiating gave the Saints an advantage, the Charger defense also made a few mistakes of their own.

Harry How - Getty Images

Breaking news update! Donald Butler's second half pass rush grade altered.

Just like when the Chargers went to New York last year, the defense, mostly Antoine Cason, gave up many catches resulting in points and first downs. There were a few good performances to applaud and admire, but a few nuggets to make us shake our heads and wonder where all the potential went. While phantom penalties and such are certainly aggravating to deal with, the Charger defense missed many opportunities. Did you know that literally half the time Drew Brees dropped back to pass, he was being blitzed? So why only two sacks? Exactly.

Regarding the update: Thanks to new light shone by Canal street chronicles here, It seems Donald Butler tipped that pass that resulted in a Jammer interception. Thanks, Butler.

Week 5 Defense Grades:

1st Half 51 52 54 56 58 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 98
Run Average .25 na 0.0 .50 na .30 1.0 .50 0.0 .50 .50 na na
Pass Average 0.0 0.0 .33 .14 0.0 0.0 .57 .03 .20 .44 .08 .10 .25

2nd Half 51 52 54 56 58 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 98
Run Average .50 na na 0.0 .50 .30 0.0 .33 .50 .50 .50 .67 0.0
Pass Average 0.0 0.0 .29 0.38 0.0 0.0 .33 .13 .17 .44 .25 .10 .50

Click here for the full Analysis


Figure 1: So Kendall Reyes can play with speed or power. He'll be good. Aubrayo Franklin plays at 100%, which is nice.


Figure 2: You can see that this play would have been perfect had Atari Bigby blitzed after Vaughn Martin dropped into coverage.


Figure 3: Donald Butler shoots the gap, and just misses a stop in the backfield.


Figure 4: This play could have been a Touchdown if not for Jarret Johnson's veteran savvy.

The Good

Corey Liuget has convinced me that he's an every down player, capable of stopping the run, and also getting pressure. He's a unique talent and exceeded my expectations of him. Last year I saw the potential but didn't think it would develop so early this season. He will probably be getting double teamed more, but that can only help the edge rushers and inside blitzers. Corey Lynch is already 125% of what Steve Gregory was at safety. Good for him. He's played well this year in coverage despite rarely being tested. Takeo Spikes is doing great with his limited snaps. He struggled a bit last week but played well this week. Demorrio Williams has been a rock at the ILB spot. I've seen almost nothing negative about him. He's solid in coverage and even plays the run well. I like John Pagano's uber aggressiveness. He Blitzed Drew Brees 27 times on his 48 pass plays, or 56% of the time. Brees threw his interception while under pressure.

The Bad

Shaun Phillips got a sack. Outside of said sack, he was invisible when going after Brees. He did well to defend the run, but was totally ineffective outside of that one play. Jarret Johnson still can't rush the QB, so maybe he should spend more time in coverage. After a good game, Vaughn Martin is back to being the equivalent of a blocking sled. He got pressure on Brees as many times as any of us have. There's no reason he should be rushing the QB 30 times a game. Reyes and Thomas can do better. Garay, I hope, will replace him. When I see him(Martin) and Liuget in the Nickel pass package, I want to see him zone drop, even if the pass rush is just 3, because he makes that little bit of difference. It would be better to see him just not be in the Nickel pass package. That responsibility should be left for Liuget, Reyes, and Thomas. If possible, I'd like to see the Dime package instead of nickel just so Martin isn't on the field to rush. The Dime package, for those wondering, is one lineman, 3 OLB's and Butler up front.

John Pagano's uber aggressiveness. He Blitzed Drew Brees 27 times on his 48 pass plays, or 56% of the time. The problem is, by my count, there were only 11 times when Brees was actually pressured. So even though a blitz is called at a rate of 56%, it only generated pressure 41% of the time. Brees threw two touchdowns while under pressure. The defenders on those passes were literally inches, about 1 or 2 inches, from knocking the ball away. Gilchrist had his left hand up over Colston's shoulder, when had it been just 2 inches to the left, where his hands actually were, the pass would have hit his arm. With Weddle as safety help, he could have also turned his head as he trailed into the end zone and had an easy interception. As Marshall Faulk said once, Football is sometimes a game of inches.

That's all for this week. Leave your questions and comments below.

Fun Stats

  • Corey Liuget was only run at once in the first half.
  • Three times a defensive lineman dropped into coverage (Martin once, Franklin twice).
  • Blitzes were called 26 times on pass plays.