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NFL

10/2/2008
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Here we go again.

The Chargers got off to a 1—3 start in 2007 partly because defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell played it too close to the vest. Once he unleashed his defense, the team took off.

New year, same slow start, same problem. In the season opener, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme breezed 68 yards for the winning score without a defender in his face. A week later, Broncos QB Jay Cutler spent the day in the shotgun shredding a D that rarely tested him with anything more than four-man rushes. Bottom line: If Cottrell doesn't crank up the heat, he and the Chargers could be goners. Here's how San Diego can adjust.

HIDE HIS INTENTIONS
A key feature of the 3-4 is that it forces opposing blockers to locate and pick up pass-rushers from every vantage point. But Cottrell made it easy for the Broncos by almost exclusively aligning rush LB Shaun Phillips wide left. Making matters worse, with Shawne Merriman sidelined for the year, opponents are doubling Phillips. Cottrell needs to disguise his pass rush better by moving Phillips around the field, much like the Pats do with Mike Vrabel.

MAN UP
Against Denver, Cottrell aligned CBs Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie seven to 10 yards off the ball, making them easy pickings for Cutler underneath. This big, physical and athletic duo would be much better off in press coverage; playing bump 'n run will disrupt patterns and give the defensive line more time to get to the quarterback.

BRING ON THE NICKELBACK
San Diego's LBs have been killed by TEs. An extra CB will give the D more speed to chase quick outs and screens along the perimeter.