Oct 5, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) is stopped by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) and strong safety Marcus Gilchrist (bottom) and defensive back Jahleel Addae (37) during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The San Diego Chargers‘ defense has made a huge turnaround from 2013 to 2014. It went from one of the worst in the NFL–statistically–to one of the more complete, talented groups . They now rank third overall in team defense through five weeks.
What I’ve noticed: they aren’t getting torn apart by below average-to average quarterbacks anymore.
M. Schaub: 34-45, 346 yards, 3 TD, INT, 7.7 YPA (Loss)
M. Vick: 23-36, 428 yards, 2 TD, 11.9 YPA; 5 carries, 34 yards, Rush TD (Win)
J. Locker: 23-37, 299 yards, TD, 8.1 YPA; 5 carries, 68 yards, Rush TD (Loss)
T. Pryor: 18-23, 221 yards, TD, 9.6 YPA; 11 carries, 31 yards (Loss)
C. Daniel: 21-30, 200 yards, TD, 6.7 YPA; 7 carries, 59 yards (Win)
E. Manuel: 23-39, 238 yards, TD, 6.1 YPA; 5 carries, 24 yards, 1 fumble (Win)
B. Bortles: 29-37, 254 yards, TD, 2 INT, 6.9 YPA (Win)
M. Vick: 8-19, 47 yards, 2.5 YPA ; G. Smith: 4-12, 27 yards, INT, 2.3 YPA (Win)
The Chargers are the ninth-best team in opposing quarterback rating (84.2). Before coming into the Jets game, the Chargers were sacking opposing quarterbacks on 6.7 percent of drop-backs which ranked them seventh in the league, according to NJ.com. They have now accumulated 12 sacks, tied for fifth in the league, and have garnered eight turnovers through five games (three interceptions and five fumble recoveries).
According to ESPN’s Eric Williams, the Chargers are No. 1 in points allowed per contest (12.6), No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game (195) and No. 3 in yards allowed per contest (290).
Looking at the quarterback statistics above, the Chargers have only allowed two touchdowns against three interceptions to 2014’s group. Another game-defining difference is the yards per attempt. Every quarterback in 2013’s group besides Chase Daniel averaged at least 7.5 yards per attempt, while 2014’s group hasn’t even reached seven yards per attempt.
Take away all the statistics and here is what you get: the front seven can create pressure/get in the backfield and the secondary can cover. The biggest surprise though is the positive production and success of the secondary. Question marks lingered above the cornerback position in the offseason, but with 2014 first-round pick Jason Verrett and free-agent acquisition Brandon Flowers making huge impacts, it is tough to argue a weak spot on this defense.
Flowers, who was the league’s 85th-best corner a year ago, is now the top ranked cornerback, per Pro Football Focus. He has yet to miss a tackle or give up a touchdown and already has more interceptions (2) than he did in 2013. What was once a liability is now a strength (the Chargers were the third-worst team in 2013 in pass coverage with a -47.6 overall grade).
Verrett began the season as a sub-package defender. He was a bright spot (+3.5) in Week 1’s loss to the Cardinals, allowing just three catches for 25 yards and two yards after the catch, according to PFF. With injuries to Shareece Wright, Verrett took over the starting role against the Jets and allowed a completion on just 2-of-6 targets for 14 yards.
With both the front seven and secondary doing its part, it is going to be tough for any quarterback to beat these Chargers.