I think 4 strong arguments can be made for defensive MVP on the Chargers. Dwight Freeney, Corey Liuget, Brandon Flowers and Eric Weddle have all played at a high level and made an impact in every single game. I'm going to make an argument for each player and let you decide who has been the Chargers MVP on defense.
"Disruption is production"
Freeney has never been known as a run stopper, but the fact that he's had to play more snaps this year because of the injuries at OLB and hasn't been exposed as a run defender has only made the defense better. Make no mistake, his run defense isn't why he's on this list.
"Disruption is production."
Freeney only has two sacks in four games, but he has affected the quarterback routinely. In fact, he's responsible for 4-5 of his teammates' sacks. Freeney is the first one to get there and a teammate finishes the play after he forced the QB to move off of his spot.
I'm keeping track of something easy to chart I call "wins", where the defender has to beat his man and make an impact play to count, and Freeney has 17(!) total. He's beat his man far and away more than any other Charger. We saw how bad the pass rush was a year ago without Freeney. He affects the game in so many ways, how could he not be the MVP this far?
Don't Forget about me!
It didn't take long to notice that Corey Liuget is healthy. Last year he wasn't winning his one-on-one matchups on a consistent basis and that doesn't normally happen with a guy this talented. The difference this year is he's not only winning one-on-one matchups, Liuget is splitting double teams and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Liuget has been just as effective a pass rusher. Like Freeney, he only has 2 sacks, but his "wins" stat is 16. He's flat–out embarrassed some interior linemen.
The only defensive lineman who has generated more pressure than Liuget is that one guy who plays for the Texans. Liuget plays with a similar motor, you can see him chasing backs and receivers downfield. Imagine the gaping holes up the middle if you take Liuget out of this defense.
He's helped mask some of Donald Butler's play. No one else is beating double teams like Liuget along the defensive front. You take him out, you have a snowball effect in the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense. Because no one else can do what he can, Liuget is the MVP of this defense.
When the Chargers signed Flowers, I went in depth on what he'd bring to the Chargers. I thought he got a bad wrap from his play last year and thought he'd be a very good edition for San Diego.
I sold him short.
You can just watch 1 series of Flowers in 2013 and 1 series in 2014 and see that he's a completely different player. He's healthy now. After years of seeing his poor play, the biggest thing I've been impressed with Flowers is his tackling. He diagnoses the play so quickly, gets to the play and finishes. I have Flowers for 12.5 tackles with an average depth of tackle (aDOT) at 3.4 yards. That's pretty solid.
To put in in perspective, last year's corners Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall and Derek Cox had aDOT's of 12, 8 and 15.6. Not impressed yet? Liuget and Kendall Reyes both had an aDOT of 3.8 and 3.6. Flowers is making tackles where our defensive lineman were a year ago. He has 7 stops this year.
Flowers wasn't signed to make tackles. That just happens to be a plus. Flowers was signed because a year ago this passing defense was horrendous. Per Football Outsiders DVOA, they were 31st against the pass, 31st against #1 WRs and 32nd against #2 WRs.
So far this year? 13th as a team against the pass, 5th against #1 WRs and 2nd against #2 WRs.
It's painfully obvious how Flowers makes the rest of the secondary better around him. There are times when both safeties completely ignore the receiver to Flowers' side and he holds up in coverage just fine. In the 3 games, he only has 1 blown coverage and has given up 3 first downs. He's been targeted 10 times and given up 5 catches. Those 126 other snaps? Lock down.
Flowers has also been a pleasant surprise from the slot, as we saw Sunday. MVP of the defense? Without question.
Where would they be without Weddle?
Well there's a terrible thing to imagine.
Every week Weddle sniffs out plays that most players have no business making. He also has to clean up a lot of messes in the secondary, so his aDOT isn't as impressive as Flowers. Since the big play against the Jaguars is still fresh in our heads, let's take a look at it.
Everyone is playing man coverage except the corner to the bottom of the screen: Shareece Wright. It's hard to tell if this is Cover 1 and Weddle is the "robber" in the middle of the field or man coverage with 2 high safeties. In my opinion, Wright is at fault more than Weddle.
Weddle has looked very good in man coverage, he's only given up 2 catches on 5 targets. In zone, as he patrols the intermediate to short middle of the field, he's been great. He's got his hands on 4 passes and intercepted 1 of them.
The sure tackler has all but eliminated teams having an effective passing game over the middle. 3 wins, 9 stops and only 1.5 blown coverages in 4 games for all that this team asks of Weddle. Weddle holds everything together in this defense. Take him away and you start to see a lot of small leaks that you normally wouldn't because he still hides many deficiencies. That makes Weddle the MVP.
Who do you think is the MVP for the Chargers defense?