The Chargers haven’t been shy about needing to shore up several areas following a disappointing start to the 2017 campaign.
Near the top of the list has been the team’s tackling woes. The Bolts lead the NFL with 54 missed tackles, eight more than the next closest team in the Cleveland Browns.
Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley makes no excuses for the team’s shortcomings in that area. While it’s always a point of emphasis each and every practice, he admitted it’s taken on an added importance. Addressing reporters in his weekly press conference, Bradley outlined what he sees as the biggest issue when it comes to the team’s missed tackles.
“Say you watch 10 running plays,” he began. “You’re seeing it (done right) on eight of the plays or nine of the plays. And then there’s one that we get away from it, or we miss a tackle and it ends up being an explosive play. That can happen when you’re playing single safety like we are. After the first line and second line of defense, there’s one guy back there. A lot of teams play with split safeties back there, and they can control some of the explosive runs because they have two safeties to try and take care of that.
“So there’s advantages to both, but when you have that single safety in the middle as much as we do, that guy has to be good as an eraser tackler. And he’s done a good job for us. But we still, up front and at the linebacker spot, we can do a better job at the point of attack.”
As a result, the Chargers are giving up the second most yards on the ground, surrendering 163.5 yards per game. This week, they face a New York Giants team who is struggling just as much to get their rushing attack rolling. The Giants have the second-worst ground game, averaging only 59.2 yards per game.
Despite New York’s struggles, the Chargers know they can’t take anything for granted.
“We’re in no position to take any running game lightly,” Bradley said. “First and foremost, that’s been a big attention for us this week. To try and get those things taken care of. Some of the things we’re asking our guys to do, and making sure we’re on the same page. But it still comes back to our fundamentals of leverage and tackling. Understanding that part of the plan.”
Bradley also explained how players need to understand when different techniques are needed based on who is carrying the rock.
“It’s such a personnel driven league too, and matchups. We talk about having a tackling plan every week. Well, the type of back that’s in the backfield, what’s your tackling plan for a guy that’s 240 pounds versus a guy that’s 198? I mean, there’s different guys that will come in the game, and you’ve got to be able to understand that. They’re so good at that position, and so specific based on their size and their strengths, that you’ve kind of got to in the moment know the guy that you’re going against. So I think that part, he’s learning. That you’ve really got to study these running styles. You’ve really got to learn if I’m going to be involved in this run fit, and be involved in this, I’ve got to be on that.”
If anything, Bradley’s encouraged by his team’s attitude, determined to make corrections instead of making excuses.
“I think that last week, as far as our performance, that one stung. I think that was because we felt like we didn’t come close to our capabilities. We didn’t come close to doing the things that we’re capable of, and it was across the board as a unit. To me, that’s a good sign. When it hurts like that, and when the defense doesn’t feel like they played their best and it’s hurt, I’m seeing a more focused group on the field this week to get it corrected.”