Get to the ball!
San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, defensive coordinator John Pagano and the rest of the team’s coaching staff could be heard repeatedly screaming those four words during the team’s rookie minicamp a week ago.
The point is simple -- make sure that all 11 defensive players recognize where the ball is and fly to it.
Pursuit is a point of emphasis for San Diego’s defense during the offseason, as McCoy sets a tone early that these types of plays will not be tolerated.
“Good things happen when you have 11 guys run to the football,” McCoy said. “It’s all about effort, believing and want to. They’re going to be tired. It was hot today, but that’s the game. It’s going to be hot in September. It’s going to be hot in training camp. So they are good practice habits that will carry over to the games on Sunday.
“There’s going to be someone that breaks an open-field tackle, and is there someone on the backside that might save a touchdown here or there? Or if the ball is punched out at some time, if we’re all running to the football good things will happen.”
The beginning of San Diego’s organized team activities (OTAs) starts on Tuesday. The Chargers have 10 OTA days scheduled, with the end of the team’s offseason program culminating with a mandatory minicamp from June 17-19.
During organized team activities, the offense can go against the defense, but no contact is allowed. Players wear a jersey and helmet. Teams can run 7-on-7 passing drills, 9-on-7 inside running drills and 11-on-11 full-team drills.
The offensive and defensive lines cannot do contact, 1-on-1 pass protection drills.
Defensively, the Chargers allowed 58 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 24 in the NFL. San Diego gave up 4.6 yards per rush last season, No. 27 in the league. And San Diego’s finished third-worst in the NFL with 17 takeaways in 2013.
Pagano understands all of those statistics can get better with improved effort from his team’s defense.
“The last eight games of the year we tackled better, and we created turnovers,” Pagano told The Mighty 1090 AM radio. “And that’s two areas of emphasis -- regardless of anything else -- that we have to improve on defensively. We play with effort. And it’s something that our coaching staff emphasizes every day. That’s what we’re about.”