John Pagano has some athletic, new weapons to his defense entering the 2016-2017 season. There is a lot to be excited about heading into the season. Play-makers at every level of the defense will give Pagano no more reasons about why his defense has under-performed in recent years. Pagano is entering his 15th season with the Chargers and 5th as the defensive coordinator. The defensive line, linebackers, and secondary all have some scary good players. Most of them haven’t even performed up to their expectations. Which is why bringing in Brandon Mebane, who has won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, will help us form an identity in the trenches.
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Additions like proven leader and run-stopper Mebane to play alongside Corey Liuget will go a very long way in freeing up our talented young linebackers. They will rack up more tackles because our defensive tackles will be able to take on two blockers allowing our athletic linebackers to roam free. Chargers fans are so used to seeing opposing running backs run through gaping holes for 5-6 yards a pop. It has been tough to watch for the past two seasons. Mebane will help that because he is one huge human being and will take on a double team almost every snap. Brandon will bring experience and leadership to a fairly young defense. In fact, Mebane came out and said this Chargers defense is more talented than the Super Bowl Seahawks defense. Adding talent on the line will only help out our very young, talented linebackers. Mebane will help the young Liuget finally reach his true potential with another big piece to a defensive front. Rookie Joey Bosa will also help in the run and pass game because of his versatility and athleticism. Now all we have to do is get Joey into training camp so he can start gelling with his teammates and getting acclimated to NFL speed of play because its night and day from the college game. This has been our major flaw on defense since Jamal Williams left years ago. It’s very reassuring to know we have Mebane anchoring the defensive line, although age might hold him back just a touch, expect to see him on primarily first and second down.
December 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes (18) misses a catch against San Diego Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett (22) during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Moving on to our very talented linebacker group. With a talented defensive line, our linebackers will be sure to get more tackles and have free releases to shoot the gaps. With Mebane taking on double teams, we will have more room for our linebackers to roam the field and make plays. Second year LB Denzel Perryman is poised to take his game to the next level and with Donald Butler not in the picture, look for Perryman to be the leader of our defense. Chances are you’ll hear his big plays from miles away because he is a straight up hitter, constantly looking for that knockout punch. You can hear the collision from the parking lot at the Q when Perryman makes a tackle. In a non-Vontaze Burfict way of course. The thought of Perryman and rookie from Ohio State, Joshua Perry, playing together with Manti Te’o for the future is exciting. But what is really exciting is our outside linebackers and how athletic they are. Our outside pass-rushing threats are as athletic as they come. Look for Melvin Ingram to finally be that presence on the outside for a full season. Same goes with OLB Jerry Attaochu who is very quick and disruptive and probably one of the most underrated players at his position in the NFL. He is constantly in the backfield and racks up the tackles for loss and disrupting plays. Rookie Jatavis Brown might be the most intriguing player on our defense because he was the two-time defensive player of the year in the MAC and he is as fast and athletic as they come. Look for him to make a lot of plays on defense or special teams as a fearless rookie. He is the type of guy you respect because of how hard he plays. He will do whatever is asked of him and I think he’ll turn some heads on special teams that will eventually lead to more defensive snaps towards the middle to end of the season.
Finally we move to the pesky defensive secondary led by the insanely talented Jason Verrett as our shutdown corner. If we have a great pass rush, expect a lot of interceptions or pass breakups from this group similar to what Antonio Cromartie did when he had Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman rushing the passer. We’ll have a very solid and deep group of corners with the growth and maturity of Steve Williams, Craig Mager and then bringing in veteran Casey Hayward, the versatile corner from the Green Bay Packers. A highly motivated Brandon Flowers wants to rebound from an awful 2015, which he mentions he was very lazy and came into camp out of shape, is also looking to be a leader and get back to the production he’s used to having. A huge question mark is how will our safeties hold up without our defensive leader, Eric Weddle, moving on to the Baltimore Ravens. Jahleel Addae has been in this defense for a while now and he knows the plays and he plays every play as if it’s his last, his motor is never-ending. Addae will have to take on more of a leadership role moving forward. Signing Dwight Lowery from the Indianapolis Colts was also another solid, safe move from Tom Telesco. Lowery has experience starting in the NFL for a playoff-caliber team the last few years so he brings a winning attitude to our defense, similar to Mebane.
There is a lot to like about the roster the Chargers will be putting on the field in 2016-2017. We now have depth at every position including a nice mix of veteran leadership with young, hungry players. This group of guys doesn’t care that nobody outside their locker room are picking them to do anything. Everyone outside the organization are not giving this unit any respect at all. That group they have there in San Diego can care less because they are out to make some noise this season. This is a hungry group of guys on the defensive side of the ball!