Previously we addressed five reasons for optimism and pessimism about the Chargers' offense. Today we'll begin the same treatment of the other side of the ball.
1. The projected starting corners are freaky good
Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett might both be top 10 cornerbacks in the National Football League. They're both capable of excelling in man and zone coverage. They both have good to great ball skills. They're both solid to above average tacklers. Neither is tall, but both are exceptional athletes. This is potentially the best cornerback tandem in franchise history. Having two corners of this quality gives the defense incredible freedom to attack in all sorts of different ways without fear of getting burned. I don't know how anyone can be anything less than geeked about watching these two guys play every week.
2. The defense has talent and continuity at the safety position
Eric Weddle is an All Pro. He's somewhere between the very best free safety in the league and the third best free safety in the league. He dos nearly everything possible right. He's an incredible ball hawk. His anticipation and short area quickness are stupid. He's one of the best tacklers on the team year in and year out. You can count on him to be exactly where he should be on nearly every single play. He misses roughly zero snaps per season. He may be the best player on the roster.
Jahleel Addae came into the league as an intriguing but terribly flawed strong safety. Even still, he was a capable if uninspiring starter. He is a lot better now. He has progressed a ton as a football player. Between the coaching staff and playing alongside great veterans like Eric Weddle and Brandon Flowers, Addae has remade himself. Before, he was flying around completely out of control and frequently out of position. Now, he's a player you can trust to do his job and do it well. I am and you should be excited to see what he can do in 2015.
3. Mike Nolan is a witch
New linebackers coach Mike Nolan is simply great at his job. All of the linebackers will probably be better or even a lot better this year thanks to his tutelage. This is encouraging because the Chargers linebackers entered the offseason as physically talented but technically deficient group. Donald Butler was somewhere between a tire fire and something worse than a tire fire in 2014. If anyone can turn that player back into a productive inside linebacker, it's Mike Nolan. Melvin Ingram is an incredible athlete that somehow never learned how to use his hands as a pass rusher. Nolan is the man to fix that. Jerry Attaochu is as raw as a second round pick can be. Nolan is the coach to mold him into a feared pass rusher. Manti Te'o already showed signs of becoming a quality NFL linebacker last year. Nolan will help him take that next step.
Some people will argue that I'm being irrational about the impact a linebackers coach can have. To that I say, Mike Nolan is a demigod of sorts. Also, shut up.
4. Tom Telesco has added solid depth at defensive line
The re-signing of Ricardo Mathews, the extending of Corey Liuget, the signing of Mitch Unrein, the drafting of Darius Philon, and the return from injury of Ryan Carrethers all have me cautiously optimistic about the front three of the defense. None of these players are exceptional. Corey Liuget is close, and Darius Philon is an intriguing prospect. The important part, though, is that none of these players are bad. The recent past is filled with downright bad defensive line play. That should not be the case in 2015. That's enough to make this Chargers fan happy.
5. When John Pagano is good, he's great
The Chargers defensive coordinator is maddening at times, but a big part of that is just how freaking good he looks about four times per season. If we're lucky, this is the year that Pagano goes from being good for a quarter of a season to good for a full season. Hell, eight games would be cool. I'm not even being greedy here. Pagano has the ability to be a good coordinator. He has shown it repeatedly. There's no reason to think he can't become more consistent.
What do you think? Am I missing any reasons for optimism? Let us know in the comments.