Jun 18, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano (left) nad linebacker Dwight Freeney (93) at minicamp at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
This is the absolute last time I will have anything critical to say about Defensive Coordinator John Pagano, until the Chargers 2014 season is in the books.
Pagano’s abilities as DC were in question before the pre-season began. The quality or depth of players is something that cannot be completely ignored either. However this is the break down. Pags lost 23 years of experience in his second year as DC. The D went from 13th to 29th literally overnight. New starting NT, 3 new LB, and 3 new DB’s yet the new players managed to allow less points than the 12′ squad (16th), ranking 11th in scoring. That is a great accomplishment.
My issue with the “hybrid” 3-4? The zone scheme. How do you continue to justify dropping the Linebackers deep, let Running Backs convert on 3rd and long, and Carson Palmer rush for 30 yards and two first downs? To me this says two things, I don’t know how to run a 3-4, or I don’t have the personnel to run legit 3-4.
What I see is this, at some point the defense is going to have to play better, in critical moments and that is Paganos responsibility. Better players yielded better performance on Monday night against the Cardinals, but so will “better schemes”. Everybody would like JJ Watt or Wilfork on their teams, the reality is these types of players don’t grow on trees. So that means you need to work with what you have. The problem? There is a consistent pattern, of no pressure, missed tackles, poor angles and just overall underperformance. Nothing about Pagano defense has been consistent. Part of that is not trusting your players which is why the “hybrid 3-4” is in full effect. It covers all the bases, without being fully effective at anything. In Arizona we saw missed multiple opportunities to put the game away. The “zone scheme” was the Chargers other opponent.
My take on the defense, let the players take gambles. I would rather Pagano roll the dice on trying to win a game, than playing not to lose.