Second change the LA Chargers need to make: Better third-down defense
If you just look at the overall numbers from last season then you could conclude that the LA Chargers had one of the better defenses in the NFL. The Chargers ranked 14th in total points allowed and fifth in passing yards allowed.
The team was not terrible against the run in terms of yards allowed, either, as they allowed the 18th most rushing yards per game. Not ideal, but it is right around league average and when that is the worst part of the defense then that is a good thing.
Those numbers do not tell the entire story, however, and while the defense might look really good on paper, its success in 2020 is going to completely rely on the changes that can be made on third down. If the Chargers do not improve on third down then it is going to be very tough to be a playoff team.
The Chargers had the fourth-worst third-down conversion percentage on defense last season, allowing teams to convert on third down 45.13 percent of the time.
Third-down conversion percentage is not the end-all say-all in terms of being a playoff team (Houston ranked 31st), but for a team with the identity that the Chargers are going to have, third downs are key.
I get the “bend and don’t break” mentality on defense and that can be useful when you are a team that can score points. The problem is that the Chargers only scored 21.1 points per game last season.
It especially is only useful if the defense can lockdown and make stops when needed, in the red zone. The Chargers’ defense did not do that. They ranked 21st in red-zone conversion percentage, allowing touchdowns in 60 percent of opponents’ red zone trips.
With a change at quarterback that is going to lead to a positive change of offensive style (we will get to that), the team has to step up and get stops on third downs to get the football in the hands of the offense.