The Disappearance Of The Chargers’ Pass Rush


As we head towards the first quarter pole of the 2015 season, the San Diego Chargers have far and away the worst pass-rushing defense in the NFL. Rookie outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel recorded the team’s lone sack, and that came in the season-opener against the Detroit Lions.

This isn’t a major headline, as this has been a constant since the day Leslie O’Neal retired. The same script has been written over and over again every summer, as a furious pass rush shows up in preseason, then suddenly disappears once the regular season begins. Inside the Q, the frustration level is at an all-time high. You can hear the fans screaming, “Damnit, can’t anybody get to the quarterback!!!”

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How do you solve this problem? Well, Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano might need to get in front of the whiteboard at Charger Park and simplify his schemes because the final resort is making wholesale personnel changes.

The defense may need to set an aggressive tempo early in contests, whether that’s sending a cornerback from the deep outside or blitzing a linebacker straight up the middle. Pagano must devise a scheme that creates blocking mismatches and forces the quarterback to evacuate the pocket immediately.

The front seven hasn’t played well as a unit, and inserting new players into the lineup might provide some newfound energy that hasn’t been seen around these parts since the Shawn Merriman years.

Cory Liuget is an important piece to solving this puzzle, as moving him to the nose tackle position might be the best solution available. Liuget is good but not a great defensive end, and that’s due to his pass-rushing skills often vanishing in key third-and-long situations. He is best at shutting down the running game, especially a lead back trying to gain the edge to the outside. Moving Liuget to the middle would force a double-team by the opponent’s interior linemen, as this should open a clear inside pass-rushing lane that flushes the quarterback to the outside and into the waiting arms of Melvin Ingram or Jeremiah Attaochu.

Ingram needs to show that he’s one of the elite pass-rushers in the NFL, as the Chargers have received zero quarterback pressures from him. Unfortunately, Ingram’s injuries have hindered his development on the field, but its time for him to elevate his performance level.

It was somewhat surprising that Chargers GM Tom Telesco wasn’t involved in the Jared Allen trade talks before the Chicago Bears shipped him to Carolina. His thought process might have been that a waiver claim, trade acquisition or signing a free agent off another team’s practice squad might look desperate. Trading for Allen would have been a temporary fix, but at least an established pass-rusher comes into the fold to change the mood inside the lockerroom.

I don’t understand why Emanuel hasn’t been given more of a chance with the first unit. He may not be ready for full-time playing status just yet, but his production in the preseason has afforded him an opportunity to see if Emanuel could make a difference in getting to the quarterback.

The Chargers pass-rushing defense has hit rock-bottom, as they haven’t recorded a sack in two weeks. Too many mediocre quarterbacks over the years have dissected this scheme like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning would have. It’s time for this unit to prove they have the talent to perform at a high level or changes must made to the lineup. Case Closed.