SAN DIEGO -- Because of injury or poor performance, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano has constantly juggled his starting lineup and defensive rotations this season.
Some of the lineup changes have been a reaction to the type of offense his team faces from week to week. For example, in a win against at Denver last week, the Chargers mostly used a lineup of five defensive backs to match up with the Broncos' up-tempo passing attack.
The Chargers used a total of 16 players on defense against the Broncos. Recently, Pagano’s rotations have produced better results. San Diego’s allowed just 13.7 points per contest in the team’s last three games, two of which were wins for the Chargers.
“Play with a physical mindset, play a physical game and play with effort,” Pagano said have been points of emphasis in improving his unit’s performance. “Those are the things that take defensive players or defensive units to the next level, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Against Denver, the Chargers have held the explosive Broncos’ offense to an average of 24 points a contest in two games.
“They’ve got one of the best offenses in the history of the game,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said about his defense’s effort against the Broncos. “They’re very explosive, and everybody knows what they can do. So give John Pagano and his staff a ton of credit. That’s an outstanding performance by the defense.”
These role players on defense have stood out for the Chargers this season.
OLB Thomas Keiser: The Stanford University product began the season on the practice squad. But after season-ending injuries to Dwight Freeney and Larry English, Keiser was added to the active roster in Week 5 and took on more of a role as a third down pass-rusher. He’s tied for the team lead with a career-high 4.5 sacks and corralled his first interception of the season against Denver on Thursday. At 6-4 and 260 pounds, Kaiser has enough speed and strength to get home off of the edge and is improving his pass coverage skills.
LB Reggie Walker: Pagano calls him Mr. Opportunity. Signed by San Diego just before the season began on Sept. 2 after he was released by Arizona during final roster cuts, Walker has played all four linebacker positions for the Chargers. The Kansas State product has started in four games. Walker has 41 tackles, three sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
S Jahleel Addae: An undrafted rookie free agent out Central Michigan, Addae played mostly when the Chargers put six defensive backs on the field in obvious passing situations. However, Addae made his first start against Denver last week, finishing with two tackles. Addae has 31 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on the year.
CB Richard Marshall: The eight-year veteran took over for a struggling Derek Cox at cornerback three weeks ago, helping to stabilize the back end of San Diego’s defense. Marshall has 51 tackles and six pass breakups on the season.
DE Sean Lissemore: Picked up in a trade with the Cowboys this season for a seventh-round pick, Lissemore helped anchor a run defense that allowed just 18 rushing yards to Denver last week. Lissemore has 21 tackles, two sacks and an interception on the year.