2015 wasn’t a pretty year for the San Diego Chargers on the defensive side of the ball. In the passing game, the Chargers allowed about 236 yards per game through the air while coming up with just 11 interceptions. Since then, the secondary has undergone a bit of a facelift.
Eric Weddle will be in Baltimore next year while Patrick Robinson will also likely be on another roster. General manager Tom Telesco brought in Dwight Lowery and Casey Hayward through free agency to fill those holes, but there’s another player in the secondary whose name fans shouldn’t forget—Craig Mager.
Mager had a quiet rookie season after being drafted in the third round last season out of Texas State. He recorded nine tackles but did manage to have two passes defensed. If Robinson is out of the fold, Mager should see much more playing time in 2016, particularly if Brandon Flowers doesn’t bounce back from a poor year.
This is a player Chargers fans should be excited about. A four-year starter in college, Mager could be an excellent complement to guys such as Jason Verrett, Flowers and Hayward for one reason—physicality. Mager is a tough, hard-nosed cornerback who is a solid tackler. He is not afraid to put his head down and wrap up in run support and in some ways, plays more like a safety than a cornerback. However, at 5’11” and 200 pounds, he’s probably best suited as a cornerback.
Take a look at a game from 2014 against Louisiana-Lafayette. You get some of the good and the bad in this game from Mager, but pay close attention to the way he attacks running plays, specifically runs by the quarterback. There is tremendous upside in this player.
Either way, the Chargers will be hoping that Mager was able to soak up enough as a rookie last season in order to make an impact this year. In watching film from his college days, he can get a bit too aggressive on run plays and sometimes fails to properly address a running play, leaving him susceptible to get beat for a big play.
At the 1:30 mark of the video below, you can see a prime example of Mager selling out to the run. Against a run-heavy offense in Navy, Mager assumes run even though it’s third and goal. The result is an easy touchdown pass for Navy, as a wide receiver sneaks into the end zone and is wide open.
“This is a player you started to hear more of late in the draft process. But, he’s as raw as raw can be. He’s very physical and very aggressive, and he can run. Those are qualities you can work with.” That is a quote from NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah, who was obviously impressed with Mager last year.
He will be a player for fans to keep tabs on once camp opens this summer.