The San Diego Chargers ranked No. 14 in the league against the pass last season. But the fact that the team ranked in the top half of that category last season was not reflective of the poor play of cornerback BRANDON Flowers.
Flowers will be entering his third season with the team, and the difference between his first two years as a Charger is night and day.
In 2014, Flowers played quite well. He registered 52 tackles and had three interceptions with 10 passes defensed. His numbers dipped in 2015, mainly because he only played in 11 games. He had just 33 tackles with four passes defensed and no interceptions. More importantly, he was routinely beaten for big plays last year.
Chargers fans have to be asking themselves which version of Flowers they’re going to get this year.
A former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Flowers was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013. He’s put up big numbers for his career, including 20 interceptions and 105 passes defensed.
The talent is there, so what happened last year? Can we attribute all of his struggles to not being 100 percent healthy?
Flowers turned 30 years old in February, so his years as a top-flight defensive back may be behind him. But he could certainly still be a viable No. 2 option.
With Jason Verrett—who is quickly turning into one of the league’s best young corners—on the other side, teams are going to target Flowers. He has to be ready for that. Can the team trust him? Perhaps Tom Telesco wasn’t fully behind him as the team’s No. 2 cornerback this offseason, hence the signing of free agent Casey Hayward. If Flowers falters, the Chargers won’t hesitate to give Hayward his snaps.
This will be an incredibly important training camp for Flowers, who will need to show from day one that he can be out on the field, healthy, and making plays.
The season will open with Flowers facing his former team, the Chiefs. In three career matchups against Kansas City since coming over to San Diego, he has been a non-factor. Flowers has a total of seven tackles in those games and he hasn’t made a play on a single pass.
He’ll likely be matched up against Albert Wilson in that game. In two games against the Chargers last year, Wilson caught 10 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown.
Defensive backs coach Ron Milus will be charged with building chemistry within the secondary. That will be a key to this unit in 2016. Hayward and Dwight Lowery are new to the team, but both are NFL veterans. If Milus can get them to jell with the players already in place, the secondary should be much improved. Milus will have help in the form of an assistant defensive backs coach as former NFL safety Chris Harris has joined the staff. Harris played for eight seasons with five different teams. His experience can only help get things going in the right direction.
Brandon Flowers says he was "out of shape" & "not all in mentally" in 2015. Guess it's too late 4 #Chargers to recoup any of that $8m bonus.
— Ralph Mancini (@ReverendRalph) May 22, 2016
Flowers struggled last season. There’s no debating that. But much of it could be because he was dealing with nagging injuries, something that became a theme for the team last year as Orlando Franklin was just one player who said he never felt in top shape.
If Flowers is healthy, he will not only return to the form we saw in 2014, but he could easily end up being the most improved player on the entire team this year.