Sep 9, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Texans kicker Randy Bullock (4) celebrates with teammates after his game-winning field goal to defeat the Chargers 31-28 at Qualcomm Stadium. At right is San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox (22). Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
Earlier this year, The San Diego Charger’s new regime decided that it was time to move on from cornerbacks Antoine Cason, and Quentin Jammer. They promoted Shareece Wright to starting corner, and signed ex-Jaguars defensive back Derek Sinclair Cox to a rather sizeable contract. The secondary had been pretty awful in previous years, and wholesale changes were long overdue in that department. At the time, the changes gave fans hope that our backfield could actually cover receivers, and wouldn’t constantly get burnt like a piece of petrified toast.
The preseason came & went, and the starters did a pretty decent job against some really good teams. The Seahawks, Bears, and Cardinals were all pretty much held in check by the first teamers. Where they weren’t held in check, there was at least effort made to break up plays (Like when Wright tried to rip the ball out of Brandon Marshall’s hands). Not perfect, but at least the plays weren’t happening 20 yards behind the CB, like when good ole’ Cason used to get blown out.
There was a good amount of optimism going into the regular season, and we were all hoping to put the days of the big “over-the-top” play behind us. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Despite a fairly solid run game, the o-line playing unexpectedly well, and Philip Rivers being on course for one of the best years of his career… the secondary continues to be the Achilles heel of this team, and this defense.
Many factors have contributed to our defense being in the basement of the passing stats. The first one is the soft play calling of John Pagano, where the cornerbacks play 10 yards off of every receiver. Players like Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Kenny Britt, and Andre Johnson have abused our secondary, and seem to get open at will. Injuries have also played a role in our poor coverage, as our best safety has been forced to play in the box, rather than command the backfield. Perhaps the biggest reason is that every player, except for Weddle, is new to their position. It’s a new team, their first starting job, their first year in the NFL, or they are learning a new position altogether. Whatever the case, they all share one common factor. This is a totally new unit for all of them. They will need time to build trust with each other, and learn how to execute the new schemes properly.
However, one player I am starting to get concerned about is Derek Cox. Our pass rush hasn’t been above average, so our CB’s don’t get a whole lot of help. But, a cornerback should still be able to cover, make tackles, and minimize the big plays over the top. So far, Derek has not been able to do that very well. I would even go as far as to say that he hasn’t stood out any more than the rest of this group. This is a big problem, in my eyes, based on his contract alone.
The secondary showed improvement in last week’s game against Dallas, but after re-watching the game last night, I can’t say that I remember Cox making many great plays. As I said before, there are many reasons why this might be happening. But, we are now 4 games into the season, and I still keep waiting for him to step up, and make QB’s throw to the other side of the field. He simply isn’t drawing any respect from our opponents.
It is still early, and my hope is that this is more to do with Pagano’s soft play calling, and a new unit trying to get their feet underneath themselves. Hopefully, playing the Oakland Raiders this Sunday will boost the secondary’s confidence a bit. But, a quarter of the way into the season, it’s time for Derek to start playing at a level that commands the type of money we spent to bring him here. Maybe I am overreacting. What do you think? Should we be worried about Cox?