Chargers defense turning up the volume after slow start
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — After not having much to cheer about in their preseason opener, the Los Angeles Chargers defense was back at full volume Wednesday.
Cornerback Trevor Williams sparked cheers from his fellow defensive backs after breaking up a long pass to wide receiver Tyrell Williams.
A diving interception along the sideline by veteran safety Dwight Lowery resulted in more celebrations. And then there was the constant chirping of safety Tre Boston, not associated with any one particular play.
“Tre just likes to talk in general. Which is OK,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “The guys were banging a little bit. I thought it was a good practice.”
Getting the noise level back up was a welcome sign for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who critiqued the low energy level on his side of the ball in a 48-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
It was especially evident the further the Chargers went down their depth chart, as Seahawks backup Trevone Boykin and No. 3 quarterback Austin Davis combined to go 19 of 24 for 297 yards and one touchdown.
The Chargers gave up six pass plays of more than 20 yards, and perhaps the lone highlight for the secondary was rookie cornerback Desmond King’s interception.
“It showed multiple times, plays being made, not a lot of enthusiasm,” Bradley said.
“But, again, I think it’s just getting out there for the first time, playing with guys that maybe haven’t played with and getting a feel for that. It’s an energetic group, and I think when you have some success and you have some good things happen, that helps, too.”
Getting cornerback Jason Verrett back on the field would definitely qualify. Verrett could see his first game action this week since tearing the ACL in his left knee last October, with Bradley saying a decision would be made later this week on his availability.
Before that decision comes, the Chargers will host the New Orleans Saints for two days of joint practices before they play Sunday.
The defense already has to deal with Philip Rivers in practice and saw Russell Wilson for one series in the Chargers’ first game at StubHub Center.
Bradley views the challenge of Saints star Drew Brees as a welcome one that will help the defense continue to adjust to a new 4-3 alignment.
“When you talk about trying to mature as a defense — you’re going against Russell and Drew and Philip every day — I mean, it’s really a great environment for that,” Bradley said.
Bradley’s main focus is at middle linebacker after starter Denzel Perryman suffered an ankle injury against Seattle that required surgery. With Perryman expected to miss at least two months, that leaves Nick Dzubnar and Korey Toomer competing to replace him.
The top priority for a middle linebacker is relaying the defensive play call and making sure everyone is lined up in the right spot, Bradley said.
That might give Dzubnar, entering his third season out of Cal Poly, a slight edge at the moment. Bradley described Dzubnar as a strong leader who is rarely out of position, while Toomer is the better athlete.
“It’s just the pre-snap process that we’re working on with him,” Bradley said. “Both of them have some things that we need to work on, but they have some traits that we’re excited about.”
Bradley didn’t rule out having Dzubnar and Toomer split time depending on situations or personnel packages.
But vocal leadership will be key for whoever steps in to replace Perryman.
“We have to look at that and just see who steps up to that calling because you’re facing the huddle and you got Brandon Mebane and Joey Bosa and Jahleel (Addae) and Jason Verrett,” Bradley said.
“And we’re looking for a guy to take charge, so that’s really been the emphasis of that position now.”