As the 2019 NFL season approaches, the Los Angeles Chargers look to be one of the top AFC contenders. Between an offense led by Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen, and a defense led by Joey Bosa, Derwin James, and Melvin Ingram, this team (coming off a 12-4 season) suddenly has a fairly loaded roster. But that doesn’t mean that all the starters are in place – at least on defense, anyway. The secondary has a bit more competition than you might expect. So let’s take a look at the roster and speculate who we might see out there this year.
The Los Angeles Chargers Secondary Lineup
Chargers fans have to be pretty happy with what the safety lineup looks like now after the last few months. They got rid of Jahleel Addae, who had long been criticized for often missing tackles or taking poor defensive angles. And then they drafted Nasir Adderley in the second round, who may well be starting right away. Assuming that’s true, that means there are now three safeties that are capable starters on this team. There’s Derwin James, Adderley, and Adrian Phillips.
The interesting thing about this situation is that it’s still possible that all three of these players could play on the field at a given time. Both James and Phillips can play in multiple places on the field. This applies more to James than to Phillips. But there’s more than one place for these guys to go. We’ve seen James do some blitzing, for one thing. But we’ve also seen both of these guys basically play linebacker positions, namely in that Wildcard game against the Baltimore Ravens. That may not be the way to go all the time. But one thing they could do is start James and Adderley out deep, and rotate Phillips in and out at other positions, or to give either of the other two a breather. Or they could simply start Phillips and Adderley, and let James be sort of a defensive everyman. As unorthodox as this sounds, he’s capable.
The cornerback situation is a little iffier. Specifically, the #2 cornerback spot opposite clear starter Casey Hayward may be the biggest issue with the team right now. First off, Jason Verrett is gone for good. Last year, they started with Trevor Williams at that spot and eventually went to Michael Davis instead after Williams got hurt. The odd thing is, Desmond King is better than both of them, but the Chargers seem determined to just have him play slot/nickel corner.
While Williams and Davis are capable of making plays, neither of them may be the best choice to play aggainst the #2 receiver opposite Hayward. Williams is a bit inconsistent; namely, in a game against the San Francisco 49ers last year, he made a critical interception but only after giving up multiple big plays. Davis is a separate issue. He’s come a long way since his rookie preseason where I thought he was one of the worst cornerbacks I’ve ever seen. And while he’s definitely better now, people who saw how he played in his early days may still be hesitant to let him be one of the top two corners on the team. The roster goes downhill after that, as Brandon Facyson and Jeff Richards are way too unproven.
It seems like the best decision would be to start King out there with Hayward and maybe let Davis play in the slot/nickel role and see how he does. But based on prior history, that seems unlikely. Between Williams and Davis, the latter might be the best option based upon his improved play. That may not stop fans who watched Davis play during the 2017 preseason or even regular season from feeling nervous.
Last Word on the Los Angeles Chargers Secondary
The Los Angeles Chargers secondary is an interesting position. The safety position is loaded right now. There’s two Pro Bowlers plus a second-rounder who may be ready to start right away. The cornerback position is a little more iffy. However, it seems like any issues there would be solved if they would let King play outside corner with Hayward. Still, with the rest of the secondary being in as good shape as it is, there is probably little to ultimately worry about for Chargers fans. The interesting thing is going to be watching who the starters end up being – both at safety and cornerback – since the lineup is not entirely as clear-cut as one might think.
Embed from Getty Images