Chargers Midseason Report: Defense

With the San Diego Chargers about to turn the corner and embark on the second half of the season, SDBoltReport.com takes a look back at the 2009 campaign to date. In Part II of this series, we break down a defense that is a work in progress.

To see the midseason report on the Chargers' offense, click here.

When Opponents Run

First-Half Review

Run defense has been San Diego's Achilles heel even since Jamal Williams joined Ryon Bingham on the injured-reserve list. The Chargers are one of only seven teams allowing more than 130 rushing yards per game, but in all fairness, they rank a more respectable No. 13 in opponent's yards per carry (4.2).

The run defense stiffened after the in-season additions of Alfonso Boone and Ian Scott, who've done a sound job of holding their ground at the point of attack and keeping their linebackers clean. Also, the insertion of SS Kevin Eliison into the starting line-up made a big impact; Ellison has averaged about eight tackles per game over the last four weeks.

Second-Half Forecast

The run defense should continue to get better as Boone and Scott get more comfortable in their roles. The growth of Ogemdi Nwagbuo and the improved health of Travis Johnson (groin) should also prove beneficial.

The schedule also figures to do the Chargers some favors. Of their remaining eight opponents, five rank in the bottom half of the league in rushing offense. Only one, the 2-6 Tennessee Titans, ranks in the league's top seven in that category.

When Opponents Pass

First-Half Review

San Diego's pass defense is one of five to allow less than 180 passing yards per game. Of course, it helps that the Chargers have faced the fifth-fewest passes in the NFL, and that three of their games have come against the Oakland Raiders or Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, it's impossible to dismiss the fact that the Chargers have allowed just 15 passes of 20-plus yards, the second-fewest in the NFL.

Coordinator Ron Rivera shook up the secondary a few weeks back when he demoted former first-round pick Antoine Cason, made Steve Gregory the nickel back and increased Paul Oliver's role. While the choice seemed crazy at the time, the results have been terrific. Gregory and Oliver have combined for two interceptions, two sacks and four pass breakups in the last three games alone.

Second-Half Review

The biggest key to the pass defense's second-half success will be Shawne Merriman's ongoing recovery from his knee surgery. After going without a sack over the first six games, he's exploded back onto the scene to post four sacks in the last two games. His increased impact has made life easier for Shaun Phillips, who is on a tear of his own with five sacks in the last three games.

If the pass rush remains hot, the Chargers secondary will continue to rank among the league's top units. If not, the secondary will become vulnerable, especially over the middle against safeties Eric Weddle and Ellison.



What do you expect in the season's second half? Talk about it in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories

","mobileBody":"To see the midseason report on the Chargers' offense, click here.

When Opponents Run

First-Half Review

Run defense has been San Diego's Achilles heel even since Jamal Williams joined Ryon Bingham on the injured-reserve list. The Chargers are one of only seven teams allowing more than 130 rushing yards per game, but in all fairness, they rank a more respectable No. 13 in opponent's yards per carry (4.2).

The run defense stiffened after the in-season additions of Alfonso Boone and Ian Scott, who've done a sound job of holding their ground at the point of attack and keeping their linebackers clean. Also, the insertion of SS Kevin Eliison into the starting line-up made a big impact; Ellison has averaged about eight tackles per game over the last four weeks.

Second-Half Forecast

The run defense should continue to get better as Boone and Scott get more comfortable in their roles. The growth of Ogemdi Nwagbuo and the improved health of Travis Johnson (groin) should also prove beneficial.

The schedule also figures to do the Chargers some favors. Of their remaining eight opponents, five rank in the bottom half of the league in rushing offense. Only one, the 2-6 Tennessee Titans, ranks in the league's top seven in that category.

When Opponents Pass

First-Half Review

San Diego's pass defense is one of five to allow less than 180 passing yards per game. Of course, it helps that the Chargers have faced the fifth-fewest passes in the NFL, and that three of their games have come against the Oakland Raiders or Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, it's impossible to dismiss the fact that the Chargers have allowed just 15 passes of 20-plus yards, the second-fewest in the NFL.

Coordinator Ron Rivera shook up the secondary a few weeks back when he demoted former first-round pick Antoine Cason, made Steve Gregory the nickel back and increased Paul Oliver's role. While the choice seemed crazy at the time, the results have been terrific. Gregory and Oliver have combined for two interceptions, two sacks and four pass breakups in the last three games alone.

Second-Half Review

The biggest key to the pass defense's second-half success will be Shawne Merriman's ongoing recovery from his knee surgery. After going without a sack over the first six games, he's exploded back onto the scene to post four sacks in the last two games. His increased impact has made life easier for Shaun Phillips, who is on a tear of his own with five sacks in the last three games.

If the pass rush remains hot, the Chargers secondary will continue to rank among the league's top units. If not, the secondary will become vulnerable, especially over the middle against safeties Eric Weddle and Ellison.



What do you expect in the season's second half? Talk about it in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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