The Chargers benefited by avoiding the NFL's best offenses (only three of their 16 opponents ranked in the top nine in total offense). Also, San Diego's terrible special teams gave opponents less ground to cover, favorably skewing the defensive stats.
San Diego still boasts a strong defense, but it is a unit without a single dominant player. Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Antoine Cason are all superb players, but7nbsp;no one on that side of the ball is complaining about a Pro Bowl snub.
Manusky will be challenged to keep this defense atop the rankings. Some of the items atop his to-do list are as follows:
DC Greg Manusky
The Chargers gave far too many snaps to mediocre defensive linemen. Manusky must keep developing Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas and prepare them for bigger roles in 2011. The Chargers will likely add more youth to the line via the NFL Draft, especially with Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson set for free agency.
2. Get Tough Up the Middle
The Chargers were gouged up the middle too often last season. The interior of the defense could have a different look with Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper and Brandon Siler all set for free agency. Safety Paul Oliver is also a free agent, giving the Chargers a chance to instill more physical personnel between the hashes.
3. Keep the Heat On
San Diego ranked No. 2 with 47 sacks, yet the pass rush often disappeared at crucial moments. Other than Phillips (11 sacks), no one else had more than six sacks. Antwan Barnes came on late, but he is a specialist and a free agent. Jyles Tucker returns from injured-reserve but remains an enigma, while Antwan Applewhite was among 2010's most disappointing players.
4. Hire a Hitman
Not since the days of Rodney Harrison have the Chargers had a safety who strikes fear in the hearts of opposing receivers. San Diego needs an enforcer, one who can lay the lumber and jar balls loose. A safety with some pass-rush skills would be nice; in 2010, just three percent of San Diego's sacks came from defensive backs.
5. Finish the Job
The defense must do a better job finishing off ballgames. This means more pressure packages and more man coverage in the fourth quarter. But more than scheme, this is about attitude. Manusky is a fiery leader who demands his players play with passion and confidence. If he can get 60 minutes worth of focused play out of his guys on a weekly basis, this item will be checked off the list.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.