Defensive optimism in San Diego

As the San Diego Chargers minicamp came to a close, the optimism in town can point to one thing – the defense, and perhaps more significantly, the pass defense. While the offense was the third highest scoring team in the league, the pass defense ranked 31st. Sunday was ruled by the defense and the soaring pass rush – even without some guy named Shawne Merriman.

The front seven witnessed Steve Foley nab ten sacks last year needed help. And help has arrived in multiple ways.

Steve Foley is still dominating and frequenting the backfield.
Shaun Phillips has a monster weekend.
Undrafted free agent Derreck Robinson was active in the backfield.
Donnie Edwards slithered through the middle on numerous occasions.
Luis Castillo showed glimpses of why he was a first round pick.
Igor Olshansky has a burst that was absent last year.
The secondary is sensing the pressure and becoming more active.

The work of the front seven produced numerous would-be sacks during the weekend's activities and kept any completions to the 2-to-10 yard range with most of those being dumpoffs to the tight end or running backs.

While there is reason to be cautious regarding what transpired on the field – the team was not in pads and therefore it is much harder to gauge the success of the blocking up front, it was so dominating that you have to wonder just how good they can be this year.

Improving the pass rush was a priority this offseason and it is no wonder that the team has worked on its "pressure package" on all three days of the camp.

"We have a better understanding of the defense," said Foley, who constantly refers to the 3-4 defense as a two-year learning curve. "Guys just knowing, do your job and be where you are supposed to be and the rest will take care of itself."

"We're another year further into the defensive system, so we're clearly much further ahead," head coach Marty Schottenheimer agreed. "Now that you're into the second season of a defensive system, I think we're much better prepared because we have a better foundation. Everybody back there understands what we're trying to do. When I say everybody, I mean the guys that have been here."

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been an integral part of the development of the team. He has been the teacher that Schottenheimer requested and has taken OTA's to install the gameplan for the coming season.

And the defensive catalyst continues to be Foley. He is a player that many other players point to on the defense.

"I am honored," said Foley. "This is me. There is no make up. I try and bring the same kind of energy and intensity. My love for the game never changes."

It appears the defense will have more than just Foley to rely on for pressure up the field. Combine that with a run defense that ranked third in the league in 2004 and this year figures to be an exciting time for shutting down the opposition.

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