Sep 22, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox (22) defends a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt (18) during the second half at LP Field. The Titans beat the Chargers 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Not too long ago, I posted an article about Derek Cox. The question I asked was “should we be worried about Cox”? Some people agreed that we should be concerned. Others thought he was adjusting to a new system, and Pagano’s scheme was the main reason he was playing so badly. There was a general consensus that he should be lined up in press coverage, and be given the opportunity to bump the receiver off the line. Pagano had been lining him up ten yards back from the receiver.
Well, they are still lining him up ten yards off, unfortunately. The problem is, we have seen Cox in press coverage lately, and he really isn’t much better. Opposing offenses keep targeting Cox, and he gives up big chunks of yardage. RGIII targeted him 5 times on Sunday, and completed 4 of those passes for 78 yards! In all fairness, Shareece Wright wasn’t much better. He let Griffin complete 5 of 6 passes on him for 68 yards. That’s 9 out of 11 targets for 146 yards!!! No bueno.
One month later, he is still struggling mightily. In Sunday’s contest against the Redskins, Cox was benched for Johnny Patrick. A player of Cox’s talent level should never force his coordinator to replace him with a less talented option. Johnny Patrick has made some good plays this season, despite the bad rep he seems to have with some fans. I have seen him take one for the team a couple of times, and stop crucial running plays. He has also been used with some success in blitz packages (neither of which Cox is very good at). But, Johnny Patrick is clearly not a very good cover corner.
When a player gets benched, one of two things can happen. It could light a fire under them, force them to address the reasons why they were taken out of the game, and raise their level of his play. Or, it could just backfire, and have a much deeper effect. It could kill whatever confidence the player has left, nothing changes, and their play just gets worse. Hopefully, the former of those two scenarios happens, for everyone’s sake.
As Charger fans, we have seen this before. There were times when Cason was getting burned repeatedly. He was replaced by Wright, Gilchrist, or even Greg Gatson for a certain amount of time. We also saw Ryan Mathews ride the pine, after fumbling the ball against Atlanta last season. In both of those cases, I can’t say that benching the player really worked. However, different players respond to different types of motivation. It is the coaches job (in this case John Pagano) to make sure that the player’s confidence doesn’t completely erode, and go on a downward spiral.
How will Derek Cox respond to this situation? He isn’t a rookie, and probably has never been benched in his NFL career. On the other hand, he has probably not played this poorly, either. Tom Telesco never would have signed him to begin with, if he knew his play would be this bad. Can he snap out of it, and play better? Can John Pagano help him regain his confidence? Can Ron Milus use his expertise as a defensive backs coach to raise Cox’s level of play, and get him to stop giving up huge plays?
These questions need to be answered quickly. We face the NFL’s best QB on Sunday, and he will pick apart this secondary like it’s the last piece of chicken. If we are starting Johnny Patrick, we are in big trouble. Furthermore, if Tom Telesco were to cut Derek Cox after one season, he would take an 8 million dollar bath against the cap. After releasing both Gaither, and Meachem, I don’t know if TT would be willing to jump back in the tub for another one. So, what do you think….. can Derek Cox get back on track? Personally, I will continue to hold onto hope that he is just going through a funk, after switching teams. Come on Derek!!!! Get this ship back on course!!!
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