Defense on notice: Jobs are on the line Coordinator Ron Rivera challenges his squad after ragged performance in Pittsburgh By Kevin Acee Union-Tribune Staff Writer 6:48 p.m. October 7, 2009 Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips says the beleaguered defense will step up. “I'm looking forward to us responding,” he says. Whether Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera explicitly said so or not, there is a feeling within the defense that jobs are up for grabs. While head coach Norv Turner said this week that he didn't expect a “dramatic” altering of the lineup, Rivera on Tuesday emphatically told the defense in a long meeting that he wasn't pleased with a number of things and that players would be evaluated in practice over the next two weeks, just as everyone in the organization is evaluated. The Chargers on Sunday allowed 497 yards in their 38-28 loss at Pittsburgh. While obviously preferring it had not happened, there is a sentiment in the locker room that such an embarrassment was perhaps necessary and will prompt some players to step up, on the field and in leadership roles. “I think it was the best thing for our defense,” cornerback Quentin Jammer said. “You get your (rear end) run through like that, it puts everything in perspective, and I think we'll be better for it. There is going to be changes. You change the way you approach things, change the way you do things. I think it was the best wake-up call for us.” Asked Wednesday about possible lineup changes, Turner said, “We know we need to get better, and we're going to do what we have to do to be better.” That might include additions to the roster by the Oct. 20 trading deadline. Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith would not comment Wednesday, but he is spending time on the phone with other general managers. Smith has a history of adding high-profile help where his team needs it at the deadline. However, that help this year will almost certainly not come at defensive tackle. The Chargers moved last month to get depth there when they traded for Travis Johnson, who has been out since injuring his groin in the season opener. Johnson could start when he returns Oct. 19 against the Denver Broncos, and he will be counted on to play a large role going forward. Whether other lineup changes come in advance of that game remains to be seen. Rivera is available to the media only on Thursdays. Players thought injecting some competition was a good thing. “When you shake things up, guys get out of their comfort zone,” safety Clinton Hart said.” Said linebacker Stephen Cooper: “Whenever you have competition, guys are going to go as hard as they can. You can't hide from anybody.” There were some different rotations at practice Wednesday. Players began talking right after the game about having not played within the defense, and they continued to spell it out Wednesday. “The same (stuff) kept happening,” Jammer said. “Everyone tried to do everyone else's job, because one or two people weren't doing their job (on a particular play) and it just (messed) everyone up.” Every defender questioned over the past couple of days has taken personal responsibility for missteps or miscues against the Steelers. “Each of us has to worry about ourselves,” linebacker Shaun Phillips said. “We can't worry about the next man.” The Chargers' defense had seemingly improved each week until it got taken apart from the start Sunday. In one week, the Chargers dropped 10 spots to 24th in the league in total defense – 28th against the run and 14th against the pass. “We had a poor game,” Phillips said. “It's how we respond to that poor game that matters. When we've had adversity in the past, have we responded? Yes. I'm looking forward to us responding.” Nuts 'n' Bolts • Asked about comments Smith made in Wednesday's Union-Tribune, in which the general manager said the Chargers had at times played “soft,” Shawne Merriman said: “The only opinions that matter to me are the ones in this locker room.” • Merriman (groin), Antwan Applewhite (hamstring), Johnson (groin), Jacques Cesaire (calf), Scott Mruczkowski (knee) and Stephen Cooper (knee) did not practice. All are expected to return next week. • The Chargers have an eye on Denver, but they are using the bye week mostly for a different focus. Said Turner: “We're looking at ourselves as much as we're looking at our next opponent.” • The Chargers are using their two practices this week to introduce some of the concepts for their game plan for Denver and also as a time to give players new to the team a chance to work. After Thursday's practice, the players are off until Monday.