The LA Chargers underwent a vast coaching change this offseason. Anthony Lynn and most of his staff were let go, with defensive line coach Giff Smith being the only holdover from last season. In came Brandon Staley with his newly formed staff headlined by Joe Lombardi, Renaldo Hill and Derius Swinton.
With the coaching change came a culture change as well. Staley has really preached the idea of the team being a family and has brought with him a culture full of accountability and communication. This is a completely new era for the LA Chargers.
Staley is a defensive-minded coach who has received nothing but praise from his peers around the league. He piloted the Los Angeles Rams to the league’s best defense last season and Charger fans are hoping he does the same in LA.
Staley is making the changes that made his previous defenses successful. The Cover 3 defense is no more as the Chargers turn to a split-zone safety defense that will implement more man coverage. Most importantly, Staley has preached the idea of versatility on the defense to match up with whatever look the opposing offense is giving them.
This is vastly different from Gus Bradley’s defense, which was essentially the exact same thing every week. Once you cracked the code you were in for free money. Just look at the two times Bill Belichick played the Chargers with Bradley as a defensive coordinator.
The players have been touting the changes that Staley has implemented and some have even commented on the old defense. In a press conference with the media on Tuesday, Drue Tranquill took a not-so-subtle dig at the old defense that Bradley orchestrated, sharing a tidbit that, quite frankly, made no sense.
“In the last defense I just remember a play in Kansas City towards the end of my rookie year and I was running with Tyreek Hill straight down the middle of the field. Not an ideal matchup. I like to think that I can compete against anybody but he’s a little bit faster than I am. We’re going to put our players in a position to win their matchups.”
Any coordinator that has a linebacker covering Tyreek Hill down the middle of the field should be fired.
The LA Chargers linebackers will look more like true linebackers.
Drue Tranquill continued on explaining how Brandon Staley keeps telling him that he wants him to be a linebacker, and thus will do more traditional linebacker things. It will be the members of the secondary that are handling the vertical threats, allowing Tranquill along with Kenneth Murray and co. to play more downhill as true linebackers.
Tranquill continued to compare the new defense to the old defense, explaining how players had to really be on top of their game against the play-action and that the margin for error was so small.
“Last year the technique was very delicate. You had to really be on your Ps and Qs in terms of run and pass keys; because if you sucked down at all on play-action Darren Waller’s screaming on an over-route and as the weak-side linebacker I’m responsible for that. This defense is going to allow us to be a little bit more downhill on run-action and really play linebacker.”
Chris Harris later spoke to the media and explained how Tranquill and Kyzir White will also be tasked on playing man coverage against running backs and tight ends, which is expected. However, in a man-based scheme with assignments, the LA Chargers linebackers will not be as vulnerable against play-action so long that they stick to their assignment.
All of this information is a breath of fresh air for the LA Chargers. While Bradley’s scheme was perfect for a “bend, don’t break” philosophy, the Chargers consistently did not turn the ball over enough and the ceiling of the team’s defense was always limited by the static nature of the defense.