Luckily for the 2-1 San Diego Chargers, there are a lot of different directions I could go in to answer Marshall Faulk's question about the most well-crafted part of the team. I'd like to go to the section of the team that has been most impressive this year, the defense.
Let's take a look at the Chargers defense and compare it to last year. Melvin Ingram is out (again), the NT position has arguably taken a step back, some of our least favorite players (Manti Te'o, Marcus Gilchrist, Kendall Reyes) are either starting or will be starters in a few weeks when healthy....
How the heck is this defense so much better this year than it was last year? Easy: Tom Telesco, or as Kyle likes to call him, "The Coupon God".
This is going to be one of those rare times where I admit that I'm a moron, so listen closely to how Telesco improved this defense:
- Restructured deals: The Chargers front office somehow got players in the last year of their contracts to restructured their contracts without adding any years on the back-end. That tells me that threats were made, or that Telesco is a wizard. Still, not a bad word came out of Chargers Park about him being "A.J. Smith-like" in his cold and calculating ways. And the cap space was of the utmost importance to rebuilding the defense.
- Drafted Jason Verrett: I wasn't thrilled by this pick when it was first made but came around on it within 24 hours. Verrett's size and health were concerns, and I worried about how he'd manage as a starter in the red zone, but so far he's arguably been the difference between last year and this year. He's like another safety or LB out there against the run, which has been huge, and WRs can't get away from him.
- Drafted Jerry Attoachu: I wasn't mad about this draft pick, but I was furious that the team traded up and lost a pick to get Attaochu. Now that I can see the type of player he is, and how valuable depth is at that position, it seems brilliant in retrospect.
- Signed Brandon Flowers: A Pro Bowl CB that wants to come in on a cheap, risk-free deal so that he can show the world (and his former team) that he's a badass? This one kind of fell into Telesco's lap, but he had been smart enough to clear enough cap room in case this happened.
There you have it. Tom Telesco is running this team the way A.J. Smith always wanted to. He building depth at key positions (RB, OLB, ILB) while adding talented players that can contribute along the way, and the biggest beneficiary so far has been the Chargers defense. The pass rush should remain food even after Ingram's injury, the run defense might get better with Manti Te'o out, and the two new CBs have already helped bump the team up from 31st to 20th in passing defense DVOA.