clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Gus Bradley Has Chargers Defense Playing at a High Level

New, comments

Where is the love for Gus Bradley?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made of how first-year Head Coach Anthony Lynn has made this current Chargers team in his image: a tough, ground and pound group that will always compete. Coach Lynn has undoubtedly begun to turn this team around, especially after the last three consecutive victories. Lynn flexing on the sideline proves he’s invested in changing the culture and is slowly started the process of masking the stink of the other visor wearing cretin who’s damaged more screen time than Kristen Stewart while somehow making it twice as boring.

All the praise is well deserved and while the Chargers were slow out of the gate last Sunday’s game against Denver proved how special they can be. They won on all three phases but more impressively the Chargers defense shutout the Broncos; you’ll have to go back to 1992 to see the last time Denver was held scoreless. So while Anthony Lynn gets congratulated for his imprint thus far why no love for Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley?

It wasn’t pretty early on especially the missed tackles, oh the missed tackles. The defense was shaky stopping the run, particularly during the last three games of the four-game losing streak giving up 122 rushing yards to Jay Ajayi, 172 on the ground to Kareem Hunt and LeGarrette Blount rumbled his way to 136. Things have gotten better though; the run D hasn’t given up a 100-yard rusher three weeks in a row. So why are Anthony Lynn’s past sins willfully erased but Gus Bradley remains the Jacksonvillian that regrettably dons the teal-and-gold-embroidered “scarlet” letter?

The Playmakers

Let’s start with the “Super Sack Bros” as Kyle Posey has coined them but let’s put a pin in the nicknames because I know we can do better. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have become an elite pass rushing duo in the NFL ranked 4th and 6th respectively among sack leaders and the only teammates in the Top 6. Bosa and Ingram were good much before Gus got here but look at the production from those two going into the halfway point of the season. Ingram has .5 more sacks than he had all last year and is 2.5 sacks away from a career-high and Joey Bosa is 3.5 sacks away from his career high. Throw the stats out the window and trust your eyes; Melvin Ingram has become a more cerebral player than he ever has in his career, his missed tackles and missed assignments are way down, he’s much more technically sound.

Who Are These Guys?

Gus: “Brand new me, meet the brand new guys.”

The Chargers best cornerback this season has been the 2nd year UDFA gem Trevor Williams. Casey Hayward has been good too, but Williams has been rock solid not only in coverage but he’s also underrated as a run defender. After some struggles last year, Williams wiped the slate clean and has become a real diamond in the rough. Going into the Denver game PFF had Williams slotted as the 11th highest ranked CB in the league and had a passer rating of 57.1 when the ball was thrown his way for 18th best in the league.

Chris McCain went from being traded for a conditional 7th round pick to being waived to ascending to the Top 15 in sacks with 5, collecting two forced fumbles and being a key cog in the Chargers defense through 7 weeks. McCain had two sacks total through 3 times as many games (21) with Miami and New Orleans.

Gus Bradley has turned some of Tom Telesco’s trash into treasure thus far and made already good players great. Jatavis Brown led the league in tackles earlier in the season and is currently 14th in the NFL, Jahleel Addae has been somewhat active and is already at a career high in pass deflections, Darius Philon has taken a huge leap forward with a career-high in sacks even after appearing in 14 games last year, and even Adrian Phillips looks, well, more than serviceable.

Scheme

Early on I think the whole coaching staff was trying to figure out its personnel, but as of a few weeks ago, I think they figured it out, especially on the defensive end. Cutting back Corey Liuget’s role and expanding Darius Philon’s minutes works out well for both parties with Liuget being more effective in limited snaps and Philon building as a game goes along. Gus has been running a lot of Dime Defenses to mask the team’s deficiency at Linebacker since Denzel Perryman went down. Adrian Phillips has been the 6th DB on the field and essentially lining up as a Linebacker to take on coverage responsibilities and attack in the run game. It’s been successful so far and a tactical advantage the Chargers lacked early on.

This week we saw the “NASCAR” and “Elephant” packages ran with success which added some more versatility to the playbook. We’re also seeing Bradley using stunts and twists to get Melvin Ingram free shots at the quarterback and also lining his two best pass rushers Ingram and Bosa on the same side which has been deadly so far. He’s putting his players in some advantageous situations.

The run defense has improved. Even the tackling has gotten better for the last game and a half (the first half against Oakland wasn’t great but vastly improved after halftime) guys are swarming to the football. The pass defense is ranked 5th in the league giving up only 185 yards per game. The Chargers are also 5th in the league in sacks per game with 3.3. It’s not all perfect but look at the Dr. Sam Beckett style Quantum Leap these players and this defense as a whole has made. Can’t all be Coach Lynn can it?

Nobody is saying he’s the best DC in the league or has a defense as good as his Super Bowl group in Seattle, but through 7 games he’s made some impressive adjustments and has found some solid rotations. Let’s all drop the act; Gus Bradley is doing a hell of a job so far as the Chargers Defensive Coordinator, and it’s time to start acknowledging it.