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John Pagano Names His Top Two Offseason Goals

The book is officially closed on the 2015 season.

But despite a rough year for the Bolts, there were enough promising storylines to build off of heading into 2016.

Led by a bevy of young playmakers, San Diego's defense ascended down the stretch.  In fact, Defensive Coordinator John Pagano believes the ending to the team's 2015 campaign bodes well as they prepare for 2016.

"Heck yeah, I think it helps," he said.  "From the standpoint of starting 2016, in which our last game was played in 2016, we had five takeaways.  That's a positive for us.  When we had the opportunity to make a play, we did.  Look at Steve Williams; he had a great game that last game.  Guys stepped up in their certain roles, so I think that was a positive we can build on."

Still, Pagano knows the defense must improve as he named his top two offseason goals for the unit.

"The biggest thing is number one, we have to use proper technique and fundamentals in playing the run," he said.  "We need to have all 11 guys understand the fit, and that doesn't matter what type of scheme we are looking at.  The bottom line is they have to see the ball and go get the ball.  It is a simple formula.  You see that guy carrying the football? Go tackle him! It comes down to technique and fundamentals, and using the proper leverage of defeating guys on the one-on-one block.  You have to go rip and shed, then make a play."

Pagano singled out Jerry Attaochu as a shining example of what the Bolts are looking for against the run. He credits the outside linebacker for stepping up as he adapted his game and thrived in shutting down the opposition's ground attack last season.

In addition to marked improvement against the run, Pagano also wants to see his team force more turnovers.

"We need to do a better job taking the football away.  When the ball is in the air, we've got to catch it.  When it hits our hands, we have to take it away.  So from the standpoint of what our goals are, it is having a better understanding of how we need to correct those two things that I think we need to improve on. We also can't give up explosive plays.  We gave up way too many, and it hurts you as a defensive unit."

Pagano and his staff are hard at work ensuring the team improves in those areas.  They meet each day to self-scout last year's tape, going over every single play as they evaluate what worked and what needs to be corrected.

Meanwhile, he encourages his players to take some time away and a deep breath so they return refreshed and ready to grind for the offseason program.

One of those players is Jason Verrett, who will enter his third year fresh off his first Pro Bowl.  Number 22 emerged as a lockdown corner in 2015, and figures to be a centerpiece for Pagano's defense for years to come.

"It was outstanding that he made the Pro Bowl," the defensive coordinator said.  "It is always good to see somebody representing your team out there, especially on our defense. He is such a hard worker and loves to compete.  He is a high level competitor.  When he is out there on the field and his number is called, he is ready to hunt.  You want 10 more guys like him ready to roll with the mindset he has.  He loves to compete."

Verrett's competitiveness is also the reason why Pagano isn't worried the high praise will go to his head.

"He is ready to go out there and play right now.  He always wants to be the best, and that is why he is one of the best in the National Football League."

The cornerback is one of many young playmakers on the defense that has Pagano excited.  The defensive coordinator believes its core grew together last season, and is encouraged by the young nucleus' potential.

"It's always exciting to see that.  The main thing was how we played down the stretch with the fight and effort they competed with.  They are young players and are still learning. Having Denzel Perryman and Manti Te'o playing next to each other inside is great for us, as is having Jerry Attaochu, Kyle Emanuel and Melvin Ingram on the outside.  Then you have two young players in Jahleel Addae and Jason Verrett in the secondary, and we'll get Corey Liuget back healthy next year, which is going to help.  I think you see how productive they all were when they were out there together each and every game.  That is important for us. That's why we tell the guys that a lot of times, the most important goal is to play all 16 games." 

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