SAN DIEGO – Maybe San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy should take note of how his opponent this week handled practice time during training camp.
The Chargers have struggled with poor tackling all season. McCoy said his team missed 12 tackles in the Chargers’ loss to Miami on Sunday, allowing 92 yards after contact. He also lamented his defense's poor execution of the fundamentals, including repeatedly jumping offside.
San Diego’s opponent this week, the Kansas City Chiefs, boasts one of the top-rated defenses in the NFL, and sits tied atop the AFC West standings with Denver at 9-1.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid set the stage for how his team is playing this season by doing something unusual during training camp – live tackling for 10 to 15 minutes during team drills. Some NFL teams have live-tackling drills during the goal-line period, but few teams are willing to risk injuries with live tackling during the meat of practice time.
"We tackled to the ground in camp," Reid said. "We’ve always done that. And that’s kind of how I was raised in the thing, and that’s how we do it."
Reid offered sound reasoning behind his decision.
“In its simplest form, this game is about blocking and tackling,” Reid said. “I don’t think that part has changed, so it allowed us to work on it and try to get better at it.”
Longtime Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said Reid’s approach during training camp was a wake-up call for a team that suffered through a disappointing 2-14 campaign last season.
“It was very physical,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been to a training camp where certain periods were live. Since I’ve been here for nine years, we’ve had a few times where you go goal-line and you go live. But we were going live every other day, so it gets you in the best position to make plays when the real game comes.”
Full tackling drills during the regular season are rare. Due to the collective bargaining agreement, the Chargers can hold only a limited amount of padded practices during the regular season. They also have suffered significant injuries to key players on defense.
On Wednesday, San Diego practiced in helmets, jerseys and shorts.
“We’ve had a tackling circuit on Wednesday every day this year,” McCoy said. “So there’s certain things you work on every day. And obviously, from last week’s game we’ve got to clean some things up.”
Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright said better tackling is about having the right mindset and all 11 players getting to the ball.
“It’s being sure every time, and not assuming – not expecting a guy to go down because one guy is tackling him,” Wright said. “It’s just a mindset of everybody getting to the ball and just being furious out there to get the ball carrier down.”
Injury update: Tackle King Dunlap (neck), outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand), cornerback Johnny Patrick (concussion) and receiver Eddie Royal (toe) did not practice on Wednesday. Johnson had a soft cast on his left hand.
Receiver Vincent Brown (shoulder) was a limited participant. Safety Jahleel Addae (ankle), receiver Keenan Allen (knee), defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe), center Nick Hardwick (neck), running back Ryan Mathews (hamstring) and linebacker Manti Te’o (elbow) were full participants.