SAN DIEGO -- Be prepared for anything.
That’s the mantra when facing a defense led by San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano. The Chargers will use multiple looks, send defenders from unique areas on the field when blitzing and are good at disguising their intentions pre-snap.
Sometimes Pagano will send six in an effort to heat up the pass rush. Other times he will only rush three and play coverage. And that variance in scheme muddies the picture for young quarterbacks.
San Diego likely will take a similar tact when facing Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler. Since 2013, the Chargers have an 8-5 record against first- and second-year quarterbacks, holding them to 19 points a contest. Osweiler, a fourth-year pro, is making just his third career start on Sunday.
“It’s going to be tough to rattle a guy that’s been in the league for a while,” Pagano said. “It’s something that shows. He’s real mature.
“But you don’t ever want to stay in the same thing over and over. You’ve got to keep it fresh. You’ve got to mix things up. So I think that’s important.”
Defensively, the Chargers have been inconsistent at best so far this season. San Diego gives up 28 points a game, third-worst in the NFL, and allows a league-worst 4.9 yards per rush.
However, the Chargers have been solid in the red zone, allowing a touchdown just 47 percent of the time -- good for No. 6 in the NFL. Making quick decisions and tough throws in tight windows is something inexperienced signal-callers usually struggle with in the compact area of the red zone.
But in two starts, Osweiler has been solid in the red area, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions, posting a 112.0 passer rating.
“San Diego has a tremendous red zone defense,” Osweiler said. “The biggest thing is they just switch up the looks. You’re not going to see the same look more than once or twice. They change it up on you. Sometimes they rush five. Sometimes they rush three. And they certainly keep the quarterback guessing.”
Osweiler has been under pressure. He’s been sacked 11 times in 10 quarters of work. But Osweiler has fared well in those situations, staying in the pocket to take a hit while still delivering an accurate throw downfield.
“He’s done his job,” Denver head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s played within himself. He’s protected the ball well. We’ve been able to help him by running the football well. But he’s been very composed.
“He’s played against two very good football teams, one on the road and one at home. And so we just need to keep progressing.”
Even though he’s 6-foot-8, one area to watch with Osweiler is knocked down balls at the line of scrimmage due to his side-arm delivery.
“I put him in the same category as Mario Williams,” said linebacker Joe Mays, who was with Denver from 2010 to 2012. “When you see him on the field, he’s a guy that looks like he’s off of Madden [video game].
“He’s definitely a tall quarterback, but the way he releases the ball, a lot of balls get knocked down. So that may be something that we can take advantage of, and can work in our favor.”