No one thought the execution would come down so well, especially with Steve Foley sidelined for a good portion of the season. And the contributions are coming from everywhere as 15 players have registered a sack.
"Probably not," Schottenheimer responded on whether he imagined so many people contributing in the pass rush department. "I'd be lying if I said that with certainty, but I doubt it. It seems unlikely because we have seen it spread around here.
"A lot of it comes from what you would define as linebacker-type (players). Shawne (Merriman) plays linebacker, and then is used in some situations with his hand on the ground. Shaun Phillips is a linebacker and he has shown the ability to put pressure on the quarterback - Luis Castillo. Their personalities blend well with what we're trying to do."
The Chargers coach nailed the top three sack artists in San Diego through ten games. They have accounted for 14.5 sacks with Merriman leading the way with seven.
Did anyone expect Merriman to be this good this soon? Denis Savage called him the best defensive player in the NFL Draft leading up to the 2005 selection process. But were the Chargers aware?
"We expected that as soon as he got comfortable and familiar with what he is being asked to do, his natural athletic skills would take over," Schottenheimer said. "When you have a player that has the kind of size and strength that he has, or LaVar (Arrington) has, and can run as fast as they can run, it makes up for a lot of errors. The old adage that ‘speed kills', if you have it, you kill them; if you don't have it, they kill you. When you take big people that can run fast like that, they can make up for any number of errors that occur. That's what Shawne Merriman has been able to do for us. He is a legitimate, big-time, fast, power player."
Merriman gives credit back to his teammates. He envisions himself a sponge, soaking up whatever knowledge the veterans can impart on him.
While he was hooked to the hip of Steve Foley through training camp, he spreads the love around to the rest of his crew today – especially during the time when he was on the bench.
"When you are on a team with Steve Foley and Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey and guys like that you can only better yourself by sitting back and watching those guys. They don't think I am watching as I try and play the big shot rookie but I watch those guys every step of the day. You can only benefit by sitting back and watching. I sit back and watch each one of them. Not just with football, everything from demeanor to how to go about certain things. I try to apply it to my everyday game."
The link to the secondary has been evident as the sacks aren't always there and while the pressures may not show up in the boxscore they are equally as important.
They are averaging 16 fewer yards per game from a year ago and are third in the league in pass attempts versus their defense, and they are on pace to have nearly the same amount of attempts, over 600, against them.
Part of that is due to their stingy run defense, ranked first in the league, and part of that can be attributed to several big leagues that have forced the opposition to pass on every down.
The only thing it has not translated into is more interceptions. There have been opportunities but the secondary has failed to seize the chances.
"You have to play smart," warned safety Bhawoh Jue.
And what he alluded to was not giving up the big play. Sacrificing interceptions for sound defense and keeping the play in front of them is what they are striving for – and the interceptions will come.
Schottenheimer doesn't agree with the careful approach. He has seen too many balls drop out of the hands of the secondary. "It is frustrating. We don't have many interceptions and the opportunities have been there. It is frustrating."
The pass defense has clearly been aided by the pass rush up front. Once the interceptions come, teams will be wary of throwing against this defense and there will still be little room in the running game. The transformation is almost complete.