Chargers' John Pagano wants more speed, turnovers in '15

SAN DIEGO -- After selecting running back Melvin Gordon in the first round, there’s a reason the San Diego Chargers selected four straight defensive players to finish out this year’s draft -- the need for more speed on that side of the football.

“The most important thing and our No. 1 goal this offseason is playing faster,” Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said this week. “If we’re thinking too much, we’re not going to play fast. So, our mentality going into this spring is we don’t want thinkers. We want reactors and guys playing fast.”

Second-round selection, linebacker Denzel Perryman, third-round pick, cornerback Craig Mager, fifth-round selection, edge-rusher Kyle Emanuel, and sixth-rounder Darius Philon, a defensive tackle, all ran 40-yard times under five seconds.

Pagano’s reasoning for more speed on defense is a simple one: create havoc and force more turnovers. San Diego forced just 35 turnovers over the past two seasons, second worst in the NFL.

The Chargers led the NFL in turnovers forced in 2007 with 48. And it’s no coincidence that 2007 is the last year San Diego’s defense finished among the top five in points allowed, giving up just 17.8 points a contest.

Pagano served as San Diego’s linebackers coach that season. Pagano said he put film cut-ups together of defensive takeaways since 2007 to show to his defense this offseason. And what Pagano found was a lot of tipped balls and defenders running aggressively to the football, plucking the ball out of the air that led to turnovers.

“We’ve got to take away the football,” Pagano said. “That’s our main focus. We’ve hovered around the 20-something range in takeaways, but we’ve got to get that number up. It gives your offense more opportunities, and we’ve got to do a great job emphasizing taking away the football. It just can’t be a thing where we assume anything is going to happen out there.”

One thing that is different for Pagano this offseason is he does not have his defensive captain in the meeting room leading San Diego’s defense.

Safety Eric Weddle has chosen not to report to voluntary workouts because he is not happy with his contract status. Weddle is in the final year of a deal that’s scheduled to pay him $7.5 million in 2015, and he would like the Chargers to enter into negotiations on a contract extension.

“I look at as hopefully he’ll be here sometime soon,” Pagano said. “But from a standpoint of being able to get players reps and being able to develop guys that can make different calls, those are positive things I take away from it.

“We have the opportunity to get guys ready, just in case of a situation like that if he was not here. From my standpoint, I look at it as hopefully he’ll be here sooner rather than later. But we're getting guys prepared behind him, ready to go.”