Chargers defensive end Chris McCain chuckled at the question.
To him, to be a quarterback in the NFL you have to know where the rush is coming from; you have to develop eyes on the back of your head.
Sure, Tom Brady has it. But so does Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton and Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill, McCain said.
“He has a very good pocket presence, I would say. He knows where he can drop back to. And, he’s aware of defensive linemen, where they rush from, their targets, angles to get to the quarterback,” McCain said. “And, with the offensive line, them working together, they work really well where Tom trusts that the offensive line will get the job done. And he can step up in the pocket and not worry about the pressure. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game and be aggressive.”
It’s a plan that teams have taken more than 276 times against Brady in what might end up being the best career in NFL history. You try to hit him. You try to slow him down. And, usually, it doesn’t work.
“He’s seen every look. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. They have a way to try to find out what you have. He’s able to control the tempo,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “They can go at all speeds. They can go at no-huddle. They can slow it down. They can run the ball. They can throw the ball and go four wide. Multiple personnel groupings. I think the biggest thing about him is his accuracy. Timing and accuracy. That seems to show up over and over again.”
The Chargers’ best plan for Brady is probably not all that different from their plans for every other quarterback. The defense’s strength is the combined ability to generate a pass rush from McCain, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram while being able to cover on the outside with a pair of good cornerbacks.
“They create a lot of negative plays there, very good on third down,” New England coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week. “Third-and-long’s basically just a sack and turnover reel. They create a lot of bad plays in those situations. Obviously, we need to try and stay out of as many of those as possible.”
Teams are getting to Brady more than they’ve been able to since his first year as the Patriots quarterback. New England has allowed 18 sacks already this season. Last year, Brady was sacked just 15 times in 12 games.
Still, the Chargers are preparing for a slippery Brady in the pocket.
“He will not run around like some quarterbacks, but he moves in the pocket very well. He can create open throwing lanes and windows as good as anybody,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “That’s what makes him so good, his ability to move in the pocket and get the ball to his eligible receivers.
“[Pass rush] will be a key. It’s hard to get to him, but, yeah, we’ll try and get to him.”
By sending wide receiver Dontrelle Inman to Chicago for a conditional draft choice, the Chargers created an opportunity for a former USC star lineman to get another chance in the NFL.
Center-guard Max Tuerk, whom the Chargers used a third-round pick on in 2016, is back, having signed with the practice squad. The Chargers waived Tuerk earlier this season after he served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“We just want to get our eyes back on him,” Lynn said. “When we had Max he did a good job at center and guard, as a swing guy. So we just want to get another look at him.”
Lynn said Tuerk has work to do to be a contributor on Sundays.
“Be more consistent in his techniques and fundamentals, and make plays. And if someone goes down in that role, then he’ll be up,” Lynn said. “But right now he’s just someone we want to get our eyes on one more time.”
Tuerk’s spot on the practice squad opened up when the team promoted wide receiver Geremy Davis to the 53-man roster, a move that was expected as soon as the Inman trade became official.
The Chargers offense, still searching for a true breakout performance, will catch a break Sunday with the recently improved Patriots defense getting some bad news Thursday. Starting linebacker D’onta Hightower will miss the rest of the year with a torn pectoral muscle. … The Chargers might not be at full strength Sunday, either. Starting right tackle Joe Barksdale missed his second straight practice with a foot injury. … Running back Melvin Gordon (foot), tight end Antonio Gates (knee), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (back) and kicker Nick Novak (ankle) were all limited in practice for the second day in a row.