Despite having one of the best offenses and quarterbacks in the league in 2021, the LA Chargers were unable to make the playoffs as the team struggled on the defensive side of the football. The Bolts ranked dead last in defensive third-down conversion rank, 30th in total rushing yards allowed and 29th in total points allowed.
That prompted Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley to rebuild the defense this spring, both with big names like Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson and more complimentary pieces like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Bryce Callahan and Kyle Van Noy.
The result is undoubtedly a more talented defense that also has star power. However, talent on paper does not always translate to results in the NFL, so Chargers fans cannot pencil in anything until they see the defense in action during the regular season.
That being said, this defensive unit still appears to be far different than what it was last season. Former Chargers All-Pro Shawne Merriman recently explored these differences on the latest episode of the Charger Chat Podcast, highlighting the comradery and competitiveness that this defensive unit has.
If there is anyone that knows what a cohesive defensive unit is it is Shawne Merriman. Merriman was an All-Pro pass rusher on the 14-2 2006 Chargers, which finished with a top three offense and top 10 defense in the league that season. That 2006 team is something this 2022 team has been compared to, so having a similar feel around the defense would be massive.
Shawne Merriman has seen this Chargers defense first hand as well.
This is not a case of Merriman just going off of what he is seeing on film or hearing what the coaches are telling him. The former Chargers All-Pro attended training camp this season and coached up some of the younger pass-rushers on the team, like Chris Rumph.
Merriman was out there in the thick of it so he has seen firsthand not only how talented this defense is, but the dynamic that this defense has both on the field and in the locker room. That dynamic is extremely important, as it separates great defenses from good defenses.
We know that the Chargers are going to be one of the best offensive teams in the NFL this season with Justin Herbert under center. If the team can also have a top-10 defense, as the 2006 Chargers did, then we truly could see a regular season that is similar to that widely-praised 2006 team.
If anything, Merriman's comments just give us more hope that it could be a reality.