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Los Angeles Chargers Cornerbacks Preview

The Los Angeles Chargers cornerbacks are going into the 2023 season hoping for a couple of wildcards to help them become truly dominant.
Los Angeles Chargers Cornerbacks

The Los Angeles Chargers cornerbacks corps did not experience a whole lot of change in the 2023 offseason – the main difference is that starting slot cornerback Bryce Callahan was not re-signed. However, he remains a free agent, so a reunion remains possible. There are already some solid players in place, but they are depending on a couple of players who are wildcards (for very different reasons) to help the unit become truly dominant.

Previewing the Los Angeles Chargers Cornerbacks

The Reliable Pieces: Asante Samuel Jr, Michael Davis

Asante Samuel Jr had a solid sophomore season after starting strong in his rookie year but being bogged down by concussions. He’s not a top cornerback at this stage by any means, but he’s still fairly young and there’s still time for him to reach his ceiling.

Michael Davis started the season towards the bottom of the depth chart but finished the season leading the team in passes defensed (15). He may not be a game-changer, but he has been consistently solid for the Chargers over the years and was quite arguably the most reliable cornerback on the team last year for the team. Depending on the status of J.C. Jackson, either Davis or Samuel Jr may end up a rotational player again, but both of them are starting-caliber.

The Wild Card Starter?: J.C. Jackson

It may be hard to believe that J.C. Jackson is in this category, given his years with the New England Patriots. But the fact is, there are so many question marks surrounding Jackson in 2023. Basically, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for him in 2022 – he had surgery to remove an extra bone in his foot, took longer than expected to recover, played horribly seemingly due to being in a defensive scheme mismatch (though the surgery recovery may have played a role, even though he should have recovered by then), and got benched. Then he finally started to look like himself – and in that same game had a catastrophic season-ending injury.

The injury that Jackson suffered – patellar tendon rupture – has been known to be career-altering. Allegedly he is progressing and healing well, but it is a big crapshoot as to whether he’ll be anything like his old self. It’s not even known if he’ll be ready by Week 1. And even if he does recover such that the injury doesn’t affect his career going forward, it’s still a (smaller) question mark as to whether he will play up to expectations, given how he was playing most of the 2022 season before he got hurt.

The best-case scenario here is that Jackson recovers fully, returns to his old self, and becomes a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. The worst-case scenario is that he is a complete liability and his career ends prematurely. After his disastrous 2022 season, the Chargers would probably be happy if the result even turned out to just be “somewhere in the middle.”

The Other Wild Card: Ja’Sir Taylor

Ja’Sir Taylor started a couple of games for the Chargers when Bryce Callahan got banged up. He was surprisingly effective despite being a late-round rookie, contributing to the Chargers defense’s shutdown of the Miami Dolphins offense in Week 14.

Unless Callahan is brought back, Taylor will almost certainly end up being the starter at slot cornerback. What we’ve seen looks promising so far, but the question will be if he can be consistently good as a full-time starter – and progress further in his sophomore year. At the moment there isn’t really another alternative besides putting Samuel Jr there – and that only works if Jackson and Davis are both playing outside corner.

The Rest: Kemon Hall, Deane Leonard, Cameron Brown, Michael Jacquet, Tiawan Mullen, AJ Uzodinma

After the previous four, it’s pretty much a battle for depth/backup spots – as well as roster spots. Kemon Hall and Deane Leonard are the main returning players from last year in that capacity, and neither of them saw much time, so we don’t know much of what they’re capable of. There will be plenty of competition for their spots, though – including returning practice squad guy Michael Jacquet from last year, and three undrafted free agents to go with that.

Out of the undrafted free agents, Tiawan Mullen is the biggest name to watch. He went All-American in 2020 with Indiana before missing much of 2021 due to injury and having a somewhat inconsistent 2022. Still, there is enough upside there that it’s a little surprising he went undrafted, but his height may have hurt his stock a bit (5’10). Out of all the newcomer cornerbacks, Mullen is most likely to sneak onto the roster.

Main Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


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