SAN DIEGO -- Inconsistent play has defined the first season the San Diego Chargers' starting four members of the defensive backfield have played together.
The Chargers are giving up an average of 276 passing yards a contest and have allowed 39 passing plays of 20 or more yards, both 27th in the league. San Diego has just five interceptions, and opposing quarterbacks have posted a healthy 102.3 passer rating against the Chargers.
Beyond those troubling statistics, San Diego's defense does not pass the eye test. The defense fails to regularly rally to the ball, and left by themselves defenders struggle to make tackles in the open field.
Gilchrist and Wright have heard the criticism and are focused on putting a better product on the field, beginning Sunday at Kansas City.
"I just feel like collectively we have to have that game where we all play our best game,” Wright said. "There's been games where I've done better than others, and then other games where [cornerback] Derek Cox does well. But I just feel like we've got to come out and collectively play our best games every week. And I feel like we're a good DB group when we can do that. We just have to be more consistent and as a group make more plays.”
Added Gilchrist: "One of the things I've learned being in the NFL is how to manage the highs and lows. We've had highs and lows as a secondary. It's our first year together. And I think we're getting to a point where we're kind of learning each other, and understanding how to communicate with each other. There's always going to be room for improvement, no matter how good or bad people may say you're playing.”
When questioned about the struggles of his secondary, San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano is quick to point out his entire unit has to play better. Pagano is right. Defensively, the Chargers have not created a consistent pass rush and have only 26 sacks, No. 17 in the NFL.
And San Diego's linebackers have just as many missed tackles and assignments as the rest of the defensive unit.
"We've got to play more consistent," Pagano said. "And it's about technique, fundamentals and having that effort back there, and playing with the eye discipline and technique that we need to do.
"And you see them on plays growing together. But it's about all 11 [players]. Great pass coverage has always had great rush. And a great rush always has great pass coverage behind it. So those are the things that we're focusing on."
"It falls on the secondary because we're in the back end," Wright said. "So if somebody in front of us didn't do something right, it looks bad. If I'm in Cover 2, or if I'm in Cover 2-man and playing underneath, and the receiver catches a fade ball on me and no one knows the safety is supposed to be over the top, then I look bad. So it's just one of those things where we have to play together and have each other's back no matter what.”
San Diego's secondary will get a chance at redemption down the stretch of the season, playing against playoff-caliber teams such as the Chiefs, Denver and Cincinnati.
"Confidence is everything," Wright said. "If we can make one big play followed by another big play, and just being confident in ourselves -- we'll know that we are a good core and we can make plays."
"It's a perfect opportunity to really prove ourselves and show who we are, and that we can be a good group."