Week 8 analysis : The defense, ITS ALIVE…ITS ALIVE!
Last season the Chargers marched their way to a 12-4 record and a big part of that was due to the defense playing at a very high level. In fact the defensive backs were dubbed “jackboyz” on account to all of their takeaways. So coming into this season the expectations were sky high. However during the course of almost the first two months of this season the defense looked like a shell of itself from the year prior and even had long stretches where they struggled to stop the run. This may be due to injury to players such as Derwin James, who is obviously more important to this defense than I had originally thought. It may even be because the team was still high on themselves in a sense. Either way they struggled but against the Chicago Bears with their backs up against the wall and trying to salvage their season, the defense showed up and started to look like the defense from the year prior.
The team’s offense sputtered against the highly respected Bears defense. In fact the offense was only on the field for a total of 45 snaps for the whole game. So needless to say the defense was on the field majority of the time and boy oh boy did they hold their own. The bend but don’t break mentality held true in this one as the Bolts defense had their back against the goal line 6 times and only once did they allow a touchdown. Twice the Bears missed a field goal and some will say by luck and some will say by the defensive pressure. All I know is that this is the first time that the Chargers defense looked like it had life to it. Joey Bosa looked like he was out to prove a point that if you scratch and claw they could still be in this thing. The return of Melvin Ingram no doubt helped as both ends saw less double teams as is usual when an offensive line has to worry about two pro bowl caliber defensive ends. Not only that but one player who deserves much more credit than he seems to be receiving is Damion Square. Square served as quit the presence in the middle of that defensive line that seemed to be lacking this season. Square finished with 6 total tackles including two for a loss, a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage and a very timely strip fumble that lead to a turnover. While he graded out at a 67.2 in run defense according to pro football focus the newly signed Slyvester Williams came in with a 77.6 run defense grade and a whopping 87.5 overall grade. Williams who was signed just a week ago could turn out to be a very quiet, low key yet very productive signing if he continues to produce like he did this week. If he produces like this moving forward it could push first round pick Jerry Tillery out of the rotation once Jones and Mebane return. In Gus Bradleys defensive scheme a two gap nose tackle is essential to how the front seven play.
A pair of defensive backs who played well is Rayshawn Jenkins and Casey Hayward. Hayward graded out at 90.4 with a 90.7 coverage grade according to pro football focus. This really comes as no surprise as Hayward is one of the most highly regarded corners in the NFL. Jenkins on the other hand seems to be a player that most fans and spectators alike are sleeping on. While the overall grades weren’t as kind to Jenkins he still managed to have an important diving pass break up in the back of the endzone on a third down but he also only allowed one catch when targeted. This plus if you add in the fact that he seems to be in on every gang tackle then he gets an A+ in my book. When Derwin James returns from injury I expect Jenkins play too improve even further as he will more than likely be allowed to play single high safety more often. Theoretically this will create more consistent assignments for him and creating more consistency in play. Jenkins is a natural in the box strong safety who is being asked to play a free roaming free safety and I can say he has handled it well, especially considering this is the most playing time he has received consistently. I for one cannot wait to see how he looks when paired with Derwin James.
It is also of note that the linebackers played so much better against the run this week. In my opinion it wasn’t the talent that was lacking rather it was the rotations amongst the group that wasn’t allowing them to catch a consistent rhythm. Thomas Davis and Denzel Perryman played very well against the run while the coaching staff allowed Tranquill to sub in on obvious passing downs at the middle linebacker position. Tranquill recorded 38 total snaps with Perryman coming in at 44. So it seems fairly balanced while also allowing each to play to their own strengths. The same well balanced rotation can be said for Nwosu and Kyzir White.
Some people might say the Chargers got lucky because of missed field goals. However you can also say the Bears were lucky to be in position to even get a win to begin with. If not for two dropped touchdowns this game may have very well have been blown wide open. Either way that you decide to look at it a win like this could be what jump starts not only just the defense but also the entire team. Another win against the Green Bay Packers this may very well be a fact rather than speculation.