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Chargers 2016 position grades: Cornerbacks

Dec 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward (26) breaks up a pass intended for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward (26) breaks up a pass intended for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of our offseason positional grades for the Los Angeles Chargers and here, I’m going to recap the performance of each of the team’s cornerbacks from 2016, finishing with a letter grade for each.

Just to reiterate, these grades are going to be based off what each of these players did with the opportunities they were given on the field. It’s not exactly fair to give a player a low grade just because he saw a low snap count sitting behind a regular starter.

All snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Casey Hayward

This guy was just terrific in his first year with the Chargers. In fact, I’m willing to say that he was the best free-agent signing of the entire season last year.

Hayward led the league with seven interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He was also sixth on the team with 58 tackles. All of this led to his first career Pro Bowl appearance.

It’s exciting to imagine what he can do for an encore in 2017, as he was close to perfect in 2016. As a result, he gets my highest grade of the season, for any position.

Grade: A+

Jason Verrett

Unfortunately, fans didn’t see much of Jason Verrett last year, as he appeared in only four games before being lost to a season-ending injury.

He still managed to pick up an interception in that time and hopefully upon his return, he’ll be able to re-establish himself as one of the game’s best young corners. Of course, the blessing in disguise is that Hayward was used more than originally planned and the thought of he and Verrett playing together next season is somewhat salivating.

Grade: I (Incomplete)

Brandon Flowers

Fans were down on Brandon Flowers after a poor 2015 season and some were even saying he shouldn’t even make the team. However, a play against the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason seemed to turned a lot of that around.

On the play, Flowers jumped in front of a throw by Carson Palmer and took it the other way for a touchdown. Palmer tried to throw the quick wide receiver screen and Flowers read it all the way. It may have just been the preseason, but it was one of the best individual plays any Chargers player made last year.

he also had a pick-six in a wild win over the Tennessee Titans.

However, a concussion limited Flowers to only six games in 2016 and with Hayward and Verrett firmly entrenched as starters, the team will have to evaluate if there’s still room for Flowers.

Grade: B-

Craig Mager

This guy came into the league with plenty of promise and many felt the Chargers had found a diamond in the rough when they drafted Craig Mager out of Texas State.

While it’s probably too early to say he can’t play at this level, he needs to show some improvement. Actually, a lot of improvement.

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Mager did have an interception, but he also had just four passes defended despite appearing in 11 games and seeing 409 defensive snaps. He was also routinely beaten for big plays. He lacked awareness in certain situations and though it sounds harsh, he just didn’t look like he belonged on the field many times.

Hopefully, he can turn his career around, but he’s been close to terrible for the most part to this point.

Grade: D

Steve Williams

Steve Williams had 19 tackles and was in on 20 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last season. That was probably about 20 percent more than he should have been, as he struggled in coverage.

After three seasons with the team, Williams was released prior to the start of the season. The Chargers brought him back but released him a month later.

Grade: C-

Trovon Reed

Undrafted out of Auburn, Trovon Reed spent time with three different teams, including two stints with the Seattle Seahawks before being signed by the Chargers last October after the team had parted ways with Steve Williams.

Red made 14 tackles—all solo—while playing on just 11.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He also had two interceptions, good for second on the team. While he only saw limited action, he made the most of it. Has he found a long-term home in Los Angeles?

Grade: B+

Trevor Williams

Undrafted out of Penn State, Trevor Williams failed to make the team’s final 53-man roster, but was signed to the team’s practice squad. Shortly into the season, he was brought up to the main roster to help compensate for injuries.

He ended up playing in 12 games, registering 31 tackles, five passes defended and one fumble recovery. He struggled in coverage, though, getting beat deep easily on a few instances.

The Chargers planned to grow and develop Williams on the practice squad and he clearly wasn’t ready for the big time. It will be interesting to see if he has improved this season or if he even makes the team.

Grade: C-

Pierre Desir had two stints with the Chargers last season after being released by the Cleveland Browns. Robert McClain saw limited action as well, but neither player saw the field enough to be graded in this process. Desir is no longer with the team.

Overall Grade: C

The Chargers hit a home run with the Hayward signing and though Verrett and Flowers missed much of the season last year, there is hope for the future, especially with Gus Bradley coming in to install his defensive philosophy.

As for last year, outside of Hayward, the cornerback play wasn’t great. However, if the Chargers can stay healthy, many of those underperformers should be buried on the depth chart or looking for work elsewhere.

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