Chargers corners: Why there may be a reason to worry
The Chargers were bullied across the board by Patriots receivers, tight ends, and linemen. Derwin James, likely the best defensive back, was washed out of almost every screen, short pass, or run; imagine how the less physically-imposing corners fared. The Chargers’ corners were not as aggressive as the Patriots’ receivers, and the lack of size went against them as lead blockers from all positions wiped them out of a play. In just the first half, there were half a dozen instances where someone like Hayward or King, naturally very good tacklers, would make initial contact but watch as Edelman or White plowed them over for four or five extra yards to make yet another first down.
The coverage wasn’t terrible, but two areas of concern emerged: Davis by himself, and forgetting where the first-down marker was. Davis was not targeted often, but it was clear the Patriots knew when to take full advantage of what he was doing depending on his coverage. If he was dropping into a zone, they moved the receiver into the middle for a wide open pass. If it was man, they targeted him, though Davis was better here than against the Steelers. The Chargers’ corners also seemed to have poor third-down discipline and would meet the receiver at the first-down marker rather than ensure they never crossed it. For an undersized corner group, that’s not good.
This group is also one Hayward injury away from being a big question mark at corner. The optimism surrounding the corners is the same as that surrounding the offensive line: They’ll all improve, play well, be healthy, etc. But what if Williams doesn’t come back healthy, or his usual top-15 self? Can Davis take a step forward? Can King rebound from his worst game of the season? Here’s the better question: Can this group figure out how to stop the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game? Some of these problems will not be fixed with healthy linebackers, and it’s up to defensive backs coach Ron Milus (who no one should bet against) to figure out how to prepare them for that rematch.