Across the nation, it is Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers who are feeling the heat for the latest Chargers loss. Gordon’s fumble on the one-yard-line and overall struggles have received numerous tweets, while Rodger Sherman and Warren Sharp have gone after Rivers for refusing to QB sneak.
Due to the Chargers being one of the least popular teams, it is natural professional analysts and casual fans would hyper-focus on two of the franchise’s more recognizable players. Their analysis has merit, but one of the main culprits for the organization’s disappointing start has nothing to do with either player. This issue has been pervasive all season and is receiving few headlines nationally outside of Bill Barnwell’s tidbits a few weeks ago.
After being a Top 10 DVOA defense in 2018, the Chargers’ defensive unit has suffered a dramatic drop-off in production as they have fallen all the way to 27th. That ranking does not yet factor in yesterday’s game. There are still valuable individual performers (ex: Joey Bosa, Casey Hayward), but some of their teammates due to inexperience and/or scheme are being torn to shreds despite facing some of the less-heralded QB’s in the league. In the last four weeks, the defense has faced Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, Devlin Hodges, and Ryan Tannehill. They have allowed a QB Rating of 100.2 in those games.
Injuries and a lack of home-field advantage have certainly played a huge role in the unit’s issues and should be taken into account. Melvin Ingram has missed three games, while the safeties have been almost completely wiped out (Derwin James, Adrian Phillips, Nasir Adderley). This has caused their depth to be tested and so far it has been unable to come close to receiving a passing grade.
Essentially, the defense has no identity as they are not successful at stopping the pass or run, while also being unable to generate explosive plays on interceptions or fumble recoveries. One of the more subtle aspects of their performance is that they are in the Top 10 in terms of stopping 20+ yard plays and 40+ yard plays. Most fanbases would sign up for that. By preventing the big play, though, it is causing them to be nickel-and-dimed to death underneath based on the completion % and QB Rating they have allowed. The rankings below capture how the Chargers defense has been feasted on by opposing offenses thus far.
Chargers Defensive Stats (Did not count the punting completion by Titans on special teams)
Opponent QB’s: 137-184 (74.5%), 1,603 yds, 12 TD’s, 6 INT’s , 8.7 Y/A, 108.3 QB Rating
Opposing Rushing Attacks: 195 carries for 820 yards, 4.2 yards/carry, 5 TD’s
DVOA Rank of Opposing Offenses going into Week 7
Indianapolis - 10th
Detroit - 21st
Houston - 13th
Miami - 32nd
Denver - 20th
Pittsburgh - 24th
Tennessee - 29th
Chargers Defensive Rankings (Going into Monday Night Football of Week 7)
QB Rating - 28th
Completion% - 32nd
Y/G - 11th
Y/A - 29th
TD’s - There have been 29 defensive TD’s league-wide...Chargers have 0
INT’s - T-9th with 7 other teams
INT return yards - 29th
Sacks - 21st
Yds/carry - Tied for 15th with 4 other teams