How the Hiring of Gus Bradley changes the Chargers Defensive Draft Strategy

While Pete Carroll and John Schneider get most of the praise and attention to turning the Seahawks into the yearly Super Bowl contender, Gus Bradley deserves also deserves some praise for helping shape the Seahawks defense into one of the league’s elite units. Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks from 2009 – 2012 and helped turn a unit who finished 25th in points allowed to 1st in his three years there.

After a successful stint he was rewarded by taking over the Jacksonville Jaguars as their head coach. To say Bradley’s teams struggle in Jacksonville is an understatement as they only won 14 games over the four years and finished in the bottom five in scoring defense in every season. After four years he was fired as head coach of the Jaguars.

His struggles as a head coach didn’t scare teams off from wanting him as their defensive coordinator as he even interviewed for the Washington Redskins opening before being hired for the Chargers. Bradley is taking over a unit that finished 14th in sacks, 16th in yards given up and 29th in points allowed. While there is talent on the Chargers defense, Bradley has his work cut out for him. One of the biggest changes will be the scheme where the Chargers have ran a 3-4 defense for over a decade and likely will be transitioning to the 4-3 that Bradley has run his entire coaching career.

 

How does this affect the Defensive Line

This should affect the defensive line much because the 4-3 Under that Bradley runs can look like a 3-4 at various times. Brandon Mebane is a stout run defender and will play the 1 technique nose tackle shading the center while Corey Liuget will play the 3 technique defensive tackle. Joey Bosa was the defensive rookie of the year and likely settles into the strongside base defensive end (5 technique) and could be their version of Michael Bennett. At the Leo (Weakside) defensive end they could easily put Melvin Ingram there to take advantage of his speed and athletic ability but he is a free agent and resigning him is a must. If not both Jeremiah Attaochu or Kyle Emmanuel could get snaps.

How does this affect the Linebackers

The Chargers have drafted well at linebacker so this should also be an easy transition. The early starters are likely Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker and Jatavis Brown as the weakside linebacker. Perryman isn’t going to be confused for Bobby Wagner but he’s still a good middle linebacker and will have success. When you add in Korey Toomer who thrived in limited snaps the Chargers will be fine with those three.

The only concern may be at the strongside linebacker who is often lined up on the line over the tight end. Bradley could use either Toomer, Te’o or Josh Perry there as more of a traditional linebacker, or they could go with a more pass rusher like Vic Beasley is for the Falcons or Bruce Irvin has provided in Seattle. Melvin Ingram could be that player or they could target someone in the draft.

How does this affect the Secondary

Like similar defensive schemes look for the Chargers under Bradley to run plenty of Cover 3 which is a lot like single high man press coverage. Normally this scheme loves the big physical press corners like Richard Sherman in Seattle or Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville but the Chargers do not have a single corner over 6’0 on the roster. But don’t let that fool you, Jason Verrett is the best cornerback you don’t know about and whose playing style fits perfectly into this scheme. While the Chargers could target a bigger corner they should be set at this position.

At safety it’s very important to have a physical strong safety like Kam Chancellor, Karl Joseph and Keanu Neal who can cover underneath and fly up in the run game. At free safety Seattle has thrived having Earl Thomas play center field and control the deep middle with speed an instincts. Jahleel Addae played very well at the strong safety and should fit the Kam Chancellor role, but is a free agent. While Dwight Lowry played alright he isn’t a long term solution and the Chargers could make that a focus in the draft.


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Who are some defensive prospects they could target early

1st Round (7th Overall)

Malik Hooker S Ohio State

There may not be a better free safety fit for the Chargers than Hooker. He thrives playing back in coverage going from sideline to sideline, tracking the ball and then making plays on the ball. There will never be another Earl Thomas, but Hooker could be close.

Quincy Wilson CB Florida

While Wilson may not be an option at 7, if the Chargers trade down they could target Wilson who has the ideal size and the press ability to thrive. Cornerback isn’t a huge need but he would give them a bigger corner to pair with Verrett and Heyward.

2nd Round (38th Overall)

Marcus Williams S Utah

If the Chargers miss out on Hooker in the first round they could target Williams here in the second who may be the second best coverage safety in this class.

Tim Williams/Ryan Anderson OLB Alabama

Both Alabama players would be perfect fits for the strongside linebacker role in this defense providing run defense early and pass rusher later on. Williams has some off the field baggage that could see him fall here.

Davon Godchaux DT LSU

While Corey Liuget will get the first crack at the 3 technique DT he has struggled the past two years and the Chargers could look to find a new penetrating tackle to eventually replace him. Godchaux has an explosive first step but struggled this past year playing a two gapping defensive end. Put him at the 3 technique and let him get up field and he could do damage.

Marlon Humphrey CB Alabama

Humphrey has his struggles giving up plays downfield, but he is at his best when playing press coverage and allowed to be physical.

3rd Round (71st Overall)

Jarrod Clemens DT Illinois

Clemens played in a similar scheme this past year for Lovie Smith and could be that 3 technique penetrator.

Tyus Bowser OLB Houston

If the Chargers chose not to go after a pass rushing strongside linebacker they could look at Bowser who is a loose athlete who can set the edge, drop into coverage and still provide some pass rush ability.

Fish Smithson S Kansas

Smithson is another talented coverage safety who has good range and can go and get the ball in the air.

1 Comment

  1. I do think cornerback is a strong position for the Chargers. But they would be foolish to pass on the top defensive player, regardless of position. That being said, if either Adams or Hooker are available, they should throw a party.

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