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Breaking Down the Chargers Defense

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason breaks down the Chargers defense.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Through much of the season, generating a consistent pass rush has been problematic for the Chargers. One of the exceptions, however, was in their first game against the Broncos in Week 10.
 
That day, the Chargers -- who rank 20th in sack rate (one every 15.23 pass plays), and 28th in hits and hurries forced on opposing quarterbacks per pass play (according to ProFootballFocus.com's measurements) cracked the code against a pass-protection scheme that has been the league's best this year.
 
The Chargers hit Peyton Manning five times, sacked him twice and, by the end of the game, left him hobbling on a bothersome ankle that had already prevented him from practicing four times in the previous three weeks.
 
They would like to get a pass rush going with 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram, who played 13 snaps last Sunday against the Giants in his first game action of the season. Ingram had missed Weeks 1-13 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in May.
Until Ingram was injured, he was expected to be the primary replacement for Shaun Phillips, who signed with the Broncos in April.
 
"Last week was a big step for him. He got 13 plays in the game. Now, he thinks he can play 100 plays," said Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. "But that is just his attitude and we’re just taking it one day at a time with him."
 
Ingram was credited with 29 hurries in 281 pass-rush attempts last year, according to ProFootballFocus.com, so the Chargers could use a return to form as soon as possible.
Ingram's knee injury necessitated the signing of Dwight Freeney, who was lost for the season in Week 4. Since Freeney's injury, the Chargers' pass rush has been more prolific, but less consistent. It amassed nine sacks in Weeks 1-4 (2.25 sacks per game) when Freeney played, and had at least two each contest; it has accumulated 22 in the last nine games (2.44 per game), but has been shut out entirely twice -- against Washington and Cincinnati. 
 
The potential exists for Ingram to change that, but he will have to work his way back into proper form, and facing a quarterback who likes to get the ball away in two seconds or less might not be the best opportunity. Nevertheless, having Ingram back -- even in a brief role -- means a respite for other Chargers linebackers that could prove valuable in this short week.
 
NOTES:
 
The expanding role of rookie linebacker Manti Te'o is worth monitoring Thursday night.
 
Te'o's impact has not been felt in the pass rush; he has only hit an opposing quarterback once this year, and his work as an active pass rusher is minimal. But he has seen some high workloads in recent weeks, and has begun to make a mark as a capable player in coverage. 
 
"There is a lot that I know that when I look back at that guy playing (the Broncos in Week 10), I can see how young he was," Te'o said. "I was young and I made some young mistakes. It’s amazing how fast you learn and how fast you grow. I’ve definitely corrected those mistakes 
 
The Broncos will present a stiff challenge to Te'o, who could be asked to cover Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Knowshon Moreno, among others, at various points.