Continuing Trend

The San Diego Chargers have one trend that has plagued the team for the last few years and using a fine-toothed comb through the preseason shows the same problem creeping up again like Jason in Friday the 13th and has become the nightmare that Freddy is.

We don't need to put on a hockey mask or play scary music to notice the problem. The issue brings horror to our eyes and the trend has allowed third and longs to become first downs with a growing regularity.

"Kill. Kill. Kill." Is the motto of the defensive line.

The quarterback runs away just as the scantily clad women, but unlike Jason, who always finds his mark, the Chargers defensive line cannot catch up to opposing quarterbacks. Quarterbacks somehow find their way into the Chargers secondary with first downs dancing through their dreams. Not the nightmare the Chargers defense had hoped for when they set out on their rush.

"The thing that's troubling me now that I think we have to address is, we're giving the quarterback too many opportunities to run the ball. That's an issue right now," said Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The issue has been around forever and the coach is just getting to it?

Some parts of the equation are injured.

"I promise I'm fine. I promise when the season starts you won't know I missed a beat." Said Marcellus Wiley. Wiley has missed a significant portion of training camp with a twice injured hamstring.

Then there is Jamal Williams who is slated to be out 1-2 weeks.

"That's what they say," Williams said. "But you know me. Just give me a couple of days and I'll be fine."

The Chargers allowed the Arizona quarterbacks to gain 48 yards on seven carries this past Saturday. All the talk is about pressure on the quarterbacks and the young secondary getting beat, but the Chargers gave up just 68 yards passing Saturday and the one sack they did have was by a cornerback.

The defensive secondary is one thing, but it all starts up front. Sacks are the number one source of turnovers for the defensive line in the NFL. If they don't reach the quarterback, it puts pressure on the secondary. If they flush the quarterback out, and there is running room, it is a whole different problem, and one that exists in San Diego.

It does not matter if you bring pressure if there is no sense of containment. The defensive ends rarely move back to the inside to get to the quarterback and instead get forced upfield leaving a gaping hole for quarterbacks to run through.

This goes back to the first game of 2002 when Gus Frerotte was the Bengals leading rusher. It lasted all the way to the final game of the season when Matt Hasselbeck had 42 yards rushing on seven carries.

Why has it taken so long to get this talk going?

Maybe a healthy team is the answer, but one has to wonder if the Chargers need to keep a linebacker in just to shadow the quarterback, ala a Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb.

There is no easy answer. It stems from technique. Even on the practice field ends take the outside route every time when trying to reach the quarterback. A spin move here, a stunt there may make the quarterbacks think they have no lane.

You don't think opposing teams are putting this on their scouting report. I can hear it now. Every time it happens, fans continue to say, "Welcome to my nightmare" as quarterbacks rush their way to first downs when the defensive secondary did its job.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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