Would it be a bad idea to let Gus Bradley go?
Let me just say right off the bat that this is more so about me posing a question rather than stating an opinion. I know the majority probably want to see him go, and understandably so. His inability to switch out of soft zone schemes has been hard to watch at times. Some people have often criticized him for not blitzing enough. However I’m here to remind you how well the defensive scheme works when everyone is healthy and players execute correctly. i mean believe it or not the Chargers defense was still 10th best in yards given up. Problem is they were 22nd in 3rd down conversions and 23rd in points per game. The points per game can be partly attributed to the special teams deficiency though. for all the blown coverages they were still 9th best in passing yards per game (223.6). so the point remains that the defense still has some bright spots.
Many people want to give Anthony Lynn credit for the 12-4 season in 2018 but Gus Bradley and the defense deserve as much if not more credit for that. Bradley’s system is very similar to that of the one Robert Saleh runs up in San Francisco. Saleh was under Bradley in both Seattle and Jacksonville. It works for him up in San Francisco so we know it’s not the system. Not a whole lot of blitzing but it works just like it did for the Chargers in 2018 and just like it did up in Seattle when he created the legion of boom. They simply rely on the front 4 to get enough pressure and zone to take away the easy throws but when it’s not executed correctly it can be ugly.
I would say that 35% of the defensive issues this season were on Gus Bradley’s shoulders for lack of adjustments. However 65% was more of a player execution problem. So many big name players on the defensive side of the ball were out with injury while others were playing through injury. For the first half of the season there were so many blown coverages by Kyzir White and Kenneth Murray. While Murray did highly improve down the stretch, rookie struggles are to be expected. You can argue that part of that issue is solved with the return of Drue Tranquill and move Kyzir back to the bench. Kyzir finished the season with a 51.5 overall defensive grade. That includes a 41.2 overall run defense grade. Nick Vigil was also one of the main rotation pieces at linebacker who also had his struggles with his 60.5 overall grade. With Murray improving and Tranquill returning from injury this is an area that should theoretically improve naturally. Especially If Denzel Perryman is resigned.
Nadir Adderly also had some blown coverage’s and poor tackling at the safety position. This is something that is also easily fixed and upgraded with the return of Derwin James. In fact, the return of James helps so much more than just the obvious as he is used in all facets (coverage, in the box, and blitzing). Nasir’s struggles are also forgivable as this was essentially his rookie year as he missed all of last year due to a hamstring injury. His blown coverage’s are also reflected in his 42.5 coverage grade for the year. Not a good look for a single high free safety. These are two of the main problem points on the defense and again this one could theoretically naturally improve itself.
Players like Casey Hayward and Joey Bosa were clearly playing through, not just 1 injury but multiple injuries each. Unfortunately, it was apparent in their play as Bosa would gas out at the end of games and was unavailable down the stretch in the season. Hayward hurt the team more then helped trying to play through his injuries as it obviously hampered his coverage ability.
If general manager Tom Telesco can draft some enforcement’s at the cornerback position and along the defensive line. It could really help solidify a roster when guys are dealing with injuries and not having to force them to play through. This also in turn helps with the execution problem. I can see this issue from both sides but how would you guys feel about it?