Defense must improve on money down

One of the things San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano would like to improve on for his group in 2014 is the ability to get off the field on third down.

The Chargers finished No. 20 in the NFL in this category last season, getting off of the field 38.9 percent of the time on third down. San Diego was not much better in this situation in 2012, finishing No. 29 in the league at 42.1 percent.

A couple things need to happen for San Diego to improve in this category. The Chargers need to get better production on first and second down, putting their opponent in more third-and-medium and third-and-long situations.

Secondly, San Diego has to develop a more consistent pass rush on third down, making it easier for a young secondary to make game-changing plays in the back end. San Diego had just 10 sacks on third down in 2013, second-worst in the NFL.

A healthy Dwight Freeney should go a long way to improving San Diego’s pass rush in obvious passing situations. Freeney is the only player on San Diego’s roster with a double-digit sack season to his credit in the NFL.

Cordarro Law totaled 14 sacks with Calgary in the CFL last season, and rookie Jeremiah Attaochu had double-digit sacks in his last three years at Georgia Tech. However, rushing against CFL and college offensive linemen is much different than playing against elite-level talent in the NFL, so Freeney must set the table for the rest of San Diego’s pass-rush unit.

Along with getting better on third down, the Chargers must improve in the red zone defensively. A point of emphasis for San Diego head coach Mike McCoy this offseason, the Chargers' defense finished No. 27 in red zone efficiency last season at 62.2 percent -- the percentage of time the team allowed a touchdown inside the 20-yard line. Two years ago, the Chargers were last in the league in red zone efficiency at 70 percent.