Film Review Friday: Scouting the San Diego Chargers

Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at EverBank Field. Atlanta Falcons defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at EverBank Field. Atlanta Falcons defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

In the next installment of Film Review Friday, we take a look at the talented San Diego Chargers.

There are some people out there that think that this win should be a slam dunk. Well, let me just say that San Diego is no where near as bad as their record indicates. They have a good young front 7 and good weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Oh, and by the way, there’s this quarterback by the name of Phillip Rivers that leads the offense. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this team and the possible game plan to defeat them.

Previewing the defense

This defense has some definite potential, especially within the front 7. They have the 2016 3rd overall pick Joey Bosa and a few other players that have really began to improve. The Chargers primarily use 3 a 3-4 base defense and employ mostly a Cover 2 look on the back end when it comes to pass coverage. On occasion, they are seen using a ‘Cover 1’ man concept, but it’s often used with blitz packages.

In this particular play, you can see the Chargers running a ‘Cover 1’ man based concept with the intent to blitz the A gap with Jatavis Brown that forces an interception. Good play recognition along with quarterback pressure caused the turnover by Oakland Raiders quarterback David Carr.  Chargers Defensive Coordinator John Pagano certainly isn’t shy when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, and it shows. Also, don’t underestimate the Chargers’ ability to stop the run. They ranked 5th in the NFL at rushing Yards per game at 83.5. Because they play with an odd front alignment and have leaders such as Brandon Mebane, they’ve been very aggressive and successful in stopping the run.

So what’s the possible game plan against the Chargers’ defense? Providing multiple looks and multiple plays and designs off of those looks. I expect to see some ’12’ personnel against the Chargers’ base 3-4 defense to keep those talented linebackers honest and do muitiple things out of that alignment such as play action pass, multiple run plays to get Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman going,  and bootlegs to get Matt Ryan out of the pocket. Also, Shanahan is getting really comfortable in regards to running ’13’ personnel, which deploys 3 tight ends. That’s also something that will be hard for San Diego to defend considering it will put pressure on that linebacking corps.  Also, it will be interesting to see how the Chargers take on Julio Jones. If they man him up, it will be a long day. The weakness of this defense is on the backend with Jason Verrett out, so expect to see the Falcons take some chances down the field when the opportunity presents itself.

Previewing the Offense

Again, this will be the most crucial match up of the game as the Atlanta Falcons have a fairly young defense. This offense is led by a very good Quarterback in Phillip Rivers. Rivers has one of the quickest releases in football and his throwing angles are so unique as he can make every type of throw. This offense can give multiple looks, especially considering the talent at Wide receiver and emerging talent at the Tight End position. The biggest aspect of this team that can get overlooked is their explosive play ability. Don’t be overly surprised to see the Chargers to use some ’12’ personnel to use their new weapon Hunter Henry in space as well as Melvin Gordon in run situations out of this package.

In this play, the Chargers have ’12’ personnel. They use Hunter Henry tight on the left of the formation to provide extra protection for which is really a 2 man route
concept with Tyrell Williams at the ‘X’ and Antonio Gates in the slot. Gates runs an out route to pause that Safety just enough for Williams to get past him on a Post route for a touchdown. The Chargers have the talent to run many personnel formations and they definitely have the tight ends that could give the Falcons fits. Also, don’t be overly surprised if they opt to spread the Falcons defense out with empty backfields from time to time to create favorable match ups.

So what’s the possible game plan against the Chargers’ offense? Dan Quinn preaches speed, limiting big plays and getting the Quarterback off his spot. In this game, it will be crucial. First and foremost, the pass rush will have to wake up again. Phillip Rivers is one of the top tier quarterbacks in this league and one of the best without a ring. However, he has a reputation of being a gunslinger and turning the ball over when he’s under duress. Freeney and Beasley should have a better go of it against the bigger, slower tackles of San Diego, but I wouldn’t doubt that we see some well timed blitzes to make Rivers uncomfortable. Another part of the game plan for the Falcons is to stop running back Melvin Gordon from getting momentum. Again, it benefits the Falcons if they can turn San Diego into a one dimensional team, especially if they can be limited on 1st and 2nd downs. Thirdly and most importantly, discipline and tackling! Limit yards and stay true to zone responsibilities. That especially applies to the Linebackers and Safeties in the middle of the field because Rivers will SURELY will look to exploit the Falcons there.

Final Thoughts

This game will be more challenging than people think. The Chargers have great talent on both sides of the ball and are one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NFL. To win this game, the Falcons will have to continue to do what they’ve done offensively, win the turnover battle, pressure Rivers and tackle effectively. I fully expect the Chargers to attack the Falcons early and often because they will want to get a lead on the Falcons early. It’ll be much easier to make the Falcons one dimensional with that strategy. The biggest concern with the Falcons is how they will respond after the heart breaking loss in Seattle. If the Falcons are truly focused and play disciplined ball, they should show well in the Georgia Dome and win this game.