Bold predictions for the Chargers: Verrett to lead NFL in INTs
By Matt Pagels
We’re nine days away from training camp, so now it’s time for our ninth bold prediction for the San Diego Chargers.
Bold Prediction No. 9: CB Jason Verrett will lead the league in interceptions
I don’t know what I like watching more: Bloodline, a Netflix original, or Jason Verrett play football (spoiler alert.. both are very, very good).
Verrett, who scouts deemed too short to be effective on the outside, has developed into one of the better corners in the game. His statistics–four interceptions in two years–don’t tell the whole story. Pro Football Focus, back me up!
“On a per-play basis, no outside cornerback has been better than Verrett over the course of the last two years,” PFF’s Nathan Jahnke said when justifying his belief that Verrett could be the best CB in 2016. “He just hasn’t received the attention or the awards because he’s been unable to stay healthy.”
Thank you, Jahnke. When he’s on the field, Verrett is a game changer. He has the speed to keep up with quicker receivers and the aggressiveness to make you work for your catch. Even if a receiver makes the reception, Verrett is right on top of him, which leads to no yards after the catch.
Unfortunately, Verrett has missed 12 games over those two years. Like the rest of our recent candidates, the only way he reaches this goal is to stay healthy.
Also, teams know the name ‘Jason Verrett,’ so there’s a good chance they will target whoever is playing opposite of him. If that’s the case, it’s going to be hard to rack up those interceptions. Then again, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who made a name for himself in 2011, led the league with eight interceptions in 2013 (he recorded eight the year before as well).
It’s also been rare for a corner to lead the league in interceptions as of late. Since 2010, four of the five leaders in that category have been safeties (Chiefs rookie Marcus Peters did tie Reggie Nelson for the league-high last season).
Again, this one really comes down to health, which is why it’s a bold prediction. Verrett is a star, and the Chargers need him on the field. They finished with just 11 interceptions in 2015, which tied for the 21st-most in the league.
A revamped front seven will play a huge role, too. If they can consistently create pressure on the quarterback, I see Verrett turning in an All-Pro performance in 2016.