With the Chargers finally getting healthy, it's time for the coaching staff to get more creative on one side of the ball while playing complementary football on the other side of the ball. A few days ago I wrote about how there were two positional changes that needed to be made. Today, it's on the coaches to get better. Let's start on the defensive side of the ball.
Manufacturing Pressure with Exotic Looks
When the Chargers played the Raiders about a month ago, they blitzed 9 times. 6 of those came on the 1st 11 drop backs. Once defensive coordinator John Pagano realized that his blitzes weren't getting home, he called off the dogs until about a minute left in the 3rd quarter. Going into a shell really helped out rookie QB Derek Carr. During the next 3 possessions when the Chargers didn't blitz, the Raiders scored a touchdown, missed a field goal, and scored a touchdown. The next time San Diego did blitz, they got pressure on the quarterback, forced an errant pass and got off the field. The following series Pagano did not blitz again. Result? 8 plays and a touchdown.
My biggest critique wouldn't be going away from the blitzes(even though Carr was 1-9 vs. the blitz), it would be the blitzes themselves. Of the 9 blitzes, 4 of them were the same. FOUR. If you're wondering which blitz it was, it's the play when Marcus Gilchrist/Eric Weddle blitz off of the slot receiver. All the offensive line needs to do is slide the blitz's way, and the safety is accounted for. To no surprise, neither of these blitzes generated pressure. Two of the nine blitzes altered the play. One, where Weddle lined up basically as an outside linebacker and beat the tackle with speed. The other was a nice-looking zone blitz look where both inside linebackers and Weddle came up the middle while the two outside linebackers dropped back into coverage.
Weddle was able to knife his way through to force an intentional grounding.
Why? Why does Pagano not only go away from blitzing, but refuse to get creative? It's maddening. Of the 9 blitzes, they were all 5 man rushes. The vine about was the 1 true unique look. Now that he gets two toys back(Ingram/Attaochu), there's really no excuse not to dial up the pressure and get creative. We saw glimpses back in week 1.
This below was a 5-man pressure
Then Ingram came on a GREEN DOG blitz. My math isn't very good, but 6 on 5 means there will be a free rusher. In this case, Attaochu came through the A-gap and forced an incomplete pass.
Not bad, huh? Donald Butler, traditionally an inside linebacker, rushes from the outside. While you have both of your outside linebackers rushing from up the middle. Good things happen when you don't deploy your pass rushers from the same spot every time. This game we also saw 4-man rushes where Ingram would line up as the DT.
Which brings me to the Cardinals defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. Knowing how successful their defense has been this year, why not steal a blitz(or 7) and see if it works? I've criticized Pagano for the sake of "blitzing to blitz" without any real purpose. Just having a casual conversation with one of my friends, who covers the Lions and NFL draft, about what Arizona's plan is on defense, Jeff Risdon gave an interesting answer.
@The_KP_Show it's like they want the QB to throw under pressure instead of sacking, bizarre but effective. Love the overload blitzes— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) November 13, 2014
It's true. They look to force the quarterback to throw while he's under duress, and in turn forcing an errant throw to result in a turnover. This is the 3rd play of the game from last weeks matchup versus the Rams.
A safety and an aggressive, hard-hitting corner appear to be rushing off the edge. Both defensive tackles on the line of scrimmage are to occupy double teams allowing 1 of the 2 defenders on the second level(50 and 72) to come free as they stunt. As you can see from the screenshot below, 50 comes free, forces the QB to scramble for the sack.
The results are what you want, but this is more emphasizing my point about the process. The process being: moving your pass rushers around and giving the offense different looks which will give you these types of results. I'm not suggesting Pagano becomes this wildly aggressive play-caller. I am suggesting he cranks up his creativity here, especially with two explosive athletes back at his disposal. If the reason was "injuries"(the Cardinals suffered the same, that's why I mentioned them), then there's no reason to hold back the second half of the season now that the team is healthy up front. None. Put the pressure on the opponent to make the mistake. The defense is 31st in DVOA because of passive, bend but don't break, defensive schemes. If the Chargers want to make the playoffs, the defensive mentality must change.