Marcus Gilchrist And The Lack Of Depth At Cornerback


Nov 1, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Marcus Gilchrist (38) during warm-ups before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It seems to be in the books already: Marcus Gilchrist will play strong safety for the San Diego Chargers next year. I can see him doing a great job at that position, but what makes me a little bit worried is the depth situation at cornerback.

The starters Shareece Wright and Derek Cox seem to be very injury-prone; both missed games last season due to injuries. Already in week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, Wright suffered an ankle sprain and wasn´t able to take part in the remaining games in September and October 2012. Cox has missed 17 games over the past three seasons and 14 over the last two.

With a four-year contract worth $20 million (with 10.25 million guaranteed) the 26-year old corner was the most expensive acquisition for the Chargers this offseason. The former third-round pick of 2009 (by the Jacksonville Jaguars) had a strong start into his NFL career – i.e. already in his rookie season, he recorded 58 tackles and four interceptions. He has good size (6´1”) and is very physical, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have been quite frustrated with his inability to stay healthy. It´s definitely a possibility that we might feel the same way next season, when he´d find himself a nice, comfortable home on the injury report list.

If one of those starters go down with an injury, who will be there to take over his place?

Tom Telesco selected Steve Williams in the fifth round of this years´ NFL draft. Williams has great speed and ball skills, but with 5’9″ he is a bit under-sized. His primary role here in San Diego will probably be to serve as nickelback. But if Wright or Cox go down, he would be the first one to be plugged in there on the outside I guess. I´ve to admit I wouldn´t feel very comfortable with that move, as I´m not too sure if a player of his size is able to make an impact on the outside already in his rookie season. I guess it would be the best for him to gain some experience in nickel formations before he´s put into a starting role at outside cornerback. But the young kid got talent – no doubt.

August 17, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick (32) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first quarter of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the next name on the list would be the free agent pick-up Johnny Patrick.

Claiming cornerback Johnny Patrick off waivers from the New Orleans Saints was Tom Telesco´s first player move as General Manager of the San Diego Chargers. Patrick was a third round pick in 2011; 88th overall to be exact, which means he was picked by the Saints right before the Chargers selected Shareece Wright. Last season he was on the field for 218 snaps, i.e. he played in 15 games, with only one as starter.

On April 8th, our GM brought in free agent cornerback Cornelius Brown who went undrafted in 2010 and played some games for the Indianapolis Colts from 2010 to 2011. He´ll compete for a roster spot in training camp, but I don´t think he can be seen as a guy who can step in as a starter (if he makes the final roster).

About a month ago, the Chargers head man added some more depth at the position. I.e. right after the “NFL Player Selection Meeting”, the undrafted free agents Marcus Cromartie, Josh Johnson, Greg Brown and Kenny Okoro found their way onto the Bolts´ roster. But surely not all of these guys will wear a Lightning Bolt uniform in 2013.

I guess Marcus Cromartie is an interesting name for us BoltHeads; he is the cousin of former Chargers´ corner Antonio Cromartie. With 6’1”,195 pounds and a 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds, the UDFA has a good combination of size and speed. I hope he´ll be in better control of his animal instincts than his older cousin (the Ex-Charger has fathered twelve children with eight women living in six states…*shaking my head*).

Josh Johnson was considered to be a day three selection in this year´s NFL draft. With 5’10” (and 199 pounds) he comes in at a similar size as Steve Williams. But with 4.42 seconds the Chargers´ fifth round pick had a better 40-yard dash time than the undrafted free agent with 4.65 seconds. If he makes the team, he´ll be a special teamer or maybe a dime defender at best.

Just like Johnson, Greg Brown couldn´t impress anyone with his 40-yard dash time of 4.62 seconds. And with 5’10” (and 185 pounds) he even comes in at the exact same size as above-mentioned UDFA. The two-year starter at cornerback for Kansas could also transition to safety.

With 6’0″ (and 190 pounds) Kenny Okoro has good size and length for the position. He seems to have great instincts but needs to clean up his footwork and stay balanced in his drops. Okoro has also experience in playing safety, which adds to his value and maybe gives him a better shot at playing for the Chargers in 2013.

So, these are the names of the defensive backs that are currently on the roster. As already mentioned, not all of them will make the final 53-man crew. And I guess the undrafted free agents will have to prove themselves on the special teams before they´ll get a chance at a bigger role on the defense. This means, cornerback depth is definitely a concern.

I also heard some fans arguing, that Marcus Gilchrist can move back to cornerback as soon as strong safety Brandon Taylor is healthy again. But is it that easy? I mean, Gilchrist didn´t had that much games on the outside and if he makes the whole offseason workouts as safety, then I can´t see him being a legit starter at outside cornerback when Wright or Cox goes down with an injury.

So, I would highly welcome it if a solid corner gets cut after (or on) June 1 and Tom Telesco would pull the trigger on that guy. In a previous piece I already listed some names, which probably could be cut from the roster in order to free up some cap space.

Hopefully injuries won´t bother us too much (especially not at this specific position) and I hope we won´t regret it to not re-sign strong safety Quentin Jammer to a cheap, short-term contract.

BoltFam, what do you think about the cornerback situation? What are your thoughts on the current starters and the depth chart at that position? Let the Bolt family know what´s going on in your mind – you know where to find the comments section.

Thank you for checking out these lines and keep bolting this joint!