The stout edge-rushing tandem of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa and a pair of solid tackles in Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget allow the Chargers defense a luxury few NFL teams have: They don’t have to blitz much to apply pressure on the quarterback.
That was clearly evident in Monday night’s season-opening 24-21 loss at Denver, when the Chargers blitzed only a handful of times but sacked Trevor Siemian four times for a loss of 38 yards and got nine additional hits on the Broncos quarterback. All four sacks and eight of the nine hits were by Chargers linemen.
“When you can produce a rush with four people, it changes a lot,” Ingram said. “That’s something we try to do here — we try to make it to where our coaches don’t have to blitz as much. We feel like if we put that weight on our shoulders, then we have a chance to be good, like real good, on a consistent basis.”
Game plans change from week to week, and the fact that the Broncos started a relatively inexperienced quarterback and a rookie — Garett Bolles — at left tackle influenced the Chargers’ approach Monday night.
They may take a different tack in Sunday’s home opener against veteran Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been sacked an average of 27 times a season in 11 years and absorbed an NFL-high 52 sacks with the Chicago Bears in 2010.
But with athletic, agile and effective pass rushers Bosa and Ingram, who combined for 18½ sacks last season and three sacks and six quarterback hits Monday night, the Chargers will likely stick with a four-man rush most of the time and cover with seven defensive backs and linebackers.
“If we’re getting pressure with four, that’s ideal, we can get more guys back in coverage,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “The thing with effective blitzing is you can affect the quarterback even more and get a chance for more turnovers and bigger plays. We have to pick and choose our times. Against Denver, we felt like a four-man rush was going to be more effective.”
The Seattle Seahawks didn’t blitz much when Bradley was their defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2012, but they also had one of football’s best secondaries, with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman, a strong line led by Chris Clemons, Alan Branch and Mebane, and a superb middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner.
Seattle allowed a league-low average of 15.3 points a game and ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game (306.2) in 2012.
The Chargers have Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, but Verrett is expected to miss at least a few weeks after re-injuring his surgically repaired left knee against the Broncos. The Chargers expect strong play out of safeties Tre Boston and Jahleel Addae, but the pair is not in Seattle’s class.
“I think we can get home with just our front four, which is a positive,” Addae said. “We have one of the best front fours in the league, and it was showcased Monday night.”
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna