SAN DIEGO – Two things that stood out for the San Diego Chargers' 2015 season was the number of concussions the team suffered overall, and the number of big plays the team gave up.
According to PBS “Frontline” Concussion Watch, the Chargers finished tied for the league lead in concussions with 16. Of course, this number does not include the many concussions in practice and games that go unreported.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco addressed the rash of injuries during his season-ending news conference earlier this month.
Telesco said he did not believe the concussions this season would be a continuing issue for players like Dunlap and Fluker.
“We have to look at everything all the way down,” Telesco said. “Our strength and conditioning staff I think do a tremendous job. But that doesn’t mean we won’t take a look at it either and try to figure out where we may be missing something.
“I think as a whole, if you take out the offensive line, I think most of the injuries to the rest of the team are pretty much on par with where they would be across the league. Now, the offensive line to me has been different. That’s been uncommon. So that is something we’ve already started looking at, and it’s not going to be just one thing. I can guarantee you that.”
The Chargers have to take a closer look at how they practice during the regular season, and are they doing a good enough job of using preventative measures to lessen the chance of injuries.
And San Diego’s coaching staff also has to figure out new fundamentals to generate better production during games.
One way to do that on defense is to embrace the Seattle Seahawks’ rugby-style tackling method, which you can watch in this video.
ESPN NFL Nation Seahawks reporter Sheil Kapadia does a nice job detailing the effectiveness of Pete Carroll’s approach to tackling here.
Carroll and defensive assistant Rocky Seto created leverage-based, shoulder tackling methods that attempt to take the head out of the hit.
The fundamentals are based on rugby tackling -- track the near hip, target the thigh and hit with the leveraged shoulder.
So far it has been successful for the Seahawks in terms of curbing head injuries. According to the Frontline report, four Seattle defensive players sustained reported concussions in the past three years. Only three teams have had fewer, and the league average has been 7.03.
During that same span, the Chargers had 12 defensive players with reported concussions.
The technique also has led to better production on the field. The Seahawks have led the NFL in scoring defense in each of the past four seasons, with sure tackling from defensive players.
The Seahawks have limited opposing ball carriers to an average of 1.5 yards after contact over the past three seasons, fifth best in the league. And Seattle has held receivers to an average of 4.38 yards after the catch, tops in the NFL.
Over that same time frame, opposing runners averaged 1.68 yards after contact against San Diego’s defense, No. 12 in the NFL. And the Chargers held receivers to 5.88 yards after catch, second-worst in the league.