Chargers bolster leaky pass defense

May, 10, 2014
May 10
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SAN DIEGO -- Led by one of the best passing offenses in the history of the game, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos thwarted the San Diego Chargers' effort to reach the Super Bowl for the first time under quarterback Philip Rivers.

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Attaochu
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsJeremiah Attaochu's selection at No. 50 signifies a clear effort by the Chargers to improve their pass defense.
After the season was over, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and the rest of the team's personnel department made preparations to fix San Diego's deficiencies defending the pass. Through the first two days of the draft, the Chargers made an effort to close the gap with the AFC's favorite to return to the Super Bowl.

San Diego finished last season at No. 29 in passing defense, giving up 259 yards a contest. The Chargers also allowed 58 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 24 in the NFL.

San Diego selected fiesty TCU cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round and moved up seven spots in the second in a trade with Miami -- giving up the No. 57 and No. 125 picks -- to grab Georgia Tech pass-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu at No. 50.

Those selections represent an effort for the Chargers to get better at defending the pass in 2014.

“As far as pass defense goes, it's rushing the passer and covering people,” Telesco said. “So it's not rocket science. We've got to get to the quarterback a little more, and we've got to cover people. Luckily we've got two guys that are high-energy players and high-motor players that also have really big-time athletic skills.”

At 5 feet 9 and 189 pounds, Verrett has the versatility to play on the perimeter or in the slot and the physicality to get to the quarterback as a blitzer.

Telesco said Attaochu, a quick-twitch pass rusher at 6-3 and 252 pounds, was the guy San Diego wanted on Day 2.

“He's a player that we had targeted early on,” Telesco said. “He'll get to the quarterback. That's his big thing. He's a relentless pass rusher with a huge motor. But then he combines that with an excellent first step, which is big for pass rushers.”

Telesco said Attaochu has played outside linebacker and defensive end, so he's a scheme fit for what defensive coordinator John Pagano wants to do.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Attaochu, a native of Nigeria who just started playing football his freshman year of high school, will have the benefit of learning from one of the best pass rushers in the game in Dwight Freeney.

“That's the first thing that I told him -- that you're very fortunate to be able to work with someone like Dwight Freeney,” McCoy said. “When Dwight came in here last year, from Day 1 up until the last game of the season, he was a true pro. Even before he got hurt, he was always out there trying to help the younger guys.”

Along with Freeney serving as mentor, McCoy said Attaochu can learn from the example fellow pass-rusher Jarret Johnson sets by the way he works.

Attaochu should be an attentive student.

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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