A few weeks ago, it was written that the San Diego Chargers should focus on the defensive side of the ball when it came to free agency. With free agency looming, that sentiment still remains true. But, Tom Telesco should not just make it a priority during the months of March and April. Once the month of May hits, the Charger front office should advance this plan of action to the NFL Draft (which has been moved to early May in 2014).
Although the average age of the Chargers defensive starters for the 2013-14 season was roughly 26, there is still plenty room for improvement. While there are certainly a lot of “impact” defensive players that will be free agents this offseason, the tried-and-true method of building through the draft has worked wonders for many of the most successful franchises in the National Football League.
The Charger franchise would know that best as well. Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Vincent Jackson, Donald Butler and Quentin Jammer are just some of the most recent examples of players drafted by San Diego who have made an impact on their respective sides of the ball.
Building through the draft has worked for the Chargers before. And, in the second year of this current regime, the San Diego front office has to pay attention to the defensive unit, and make sure they make the right selections.
In contrast to their top-five offense, the defense for the Chargers struggled mightily during the 2013 campaign. San Diego’s defensive unit ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) statistic, 31st against the pass, and 31st against the run. This ranking dipped from 18th in 2012 in total weighted DVOA, showcasing a severely lackluster performance on defense through the season.
Furthermore, the Charger secondary was prone to damage from No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers. According to Football Outsiders, the Chargers were ranked 31st and 32nd against No. 1 and No. 2 receivers respectively on the season in the DVOA statistic, finishing with a 24.7% DVOA against No. 1 receivers, and a 28.1% DVOA against No. 2 receivers. In the case of this statistic, having a positive percentage is what you do not want.
To put that number in perspective, the No. 1 team against No. 1 receivers was the Arizona Cardinals, whose percentage was -28.4%. The No. 1 team against No. 2 receivers was the New York Giants, with a mark of -41.1%. So, that’s a +53.1% discrepancy for No. 1 receivers, and a +69.2% discrepancy for No. 2 receivers.
Luckily for San Diego, defensive talent is rich and deep in this draft. While it’s unlikely that the Chargers would get their hands on guys like Jadaveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and C.J. Mosley, there are many others that could find themselves holding a Chargers uniform when the Bolts pick at 25.
These players include the likes of defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota), safety Calvin Pryor (Louisville), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.), linebacker Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.) and cornerback Jason Verrett (Texas Christian). Even further, the Chargers could find defensive lineman Louis Nix (Notre Dame), cornerback Bradley Roby (Ohio St.), defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.) or defensive tackle Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh) available.
Whomever it may be, the game plan for the Chargers this offseason is clear: it must start and must end with defense.
With the impending free agency of Cam Thomas, defensive tackle is clearly a position of need for San Diego. As was mentioned yesterday, the Chargers defense was elite when nose tackle Jamal Williams was wreaking havoc on AFC West offenses. Cornerback needs to be upgraded. Period. No questions asked. And the offensive line could really use some depth throughout. This leaves us with the most important positions of need being…
Interior Offensive Line
with lesser emphasis on…
We will see if these areas are addressed in free agency and have a better idea of who the Bolts will target early in the draft.
The Chargers found the right coach for the tight ends.