Desmond King: Time for Chargers to start worrying?

Desmond King was one of the best multi-talented players entering the 2019 season, but has had a mixed year as a returner and in coverage.

If not for Derwin James, Desmond King would have been the Chargers’ best defensive back last season. No. 20 could do it all, from rushing the passer to scoring touchdowns for the defense. Against the run, King notched 52 total tackles, 24 of them run stops.

Who could forget King’s ability in the return game too? When the Chargers needed a spark against the Steelers, the former Iowa Hawkeye blazed past the opposition to set up an epic comeback in Pittsburgh.

Much of that talent remains this season; however, there has been a significant drop off in a few areas: Coverage and returns. Should the Chargers be worried?

By season’s end, King will have given up the most receiving yards, yards per reception, touchdowns, and passer rating of his career, all while not notching a single interception and posting his fewest passes defended total during one season. Surprisingly, he’s projected to not be too far off from his usual total:

  • 2017: 46 receptions (78.0 percent), 9.2 yards per reception, 424 yards, 245 yards after the catch, two touchdowns allowed, one interception, four passes defended, 100.8 rating allowed
  • 2018: 59 receptions (75.6 percent), 8.5 yards per reception, 499 yards, 394 yards after the catch, two touchdowns allowed, three interceptions, six passes defended, 84.3 passer rating allowed
  • 2019: 40 receptions (87.0 percent), 12.4 yards per reception, 497 yards, 282 yards after catch, three touchdowns allowed, no interceptions, two passes defended, 133.4 rating allowed

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That reception percentage is particularly troubling. According to Pro Football Focus, no corner targeted more than 20 times has allowed a worse reception percentage. For reference, Michael Davis’ reception percentage allowed is 68.1.

Still, what King does on defense extends further than his ability to cover. There aren’t many slot corners who can attack the run and rush the passer like No. 20 can, though, he really should be allowed to do more of the latter next season.

The biggest concern, however, is the regression returning the football. No team needs a home run on every play, but they do expect a consistent chunk of yards earned with protecting the football a priority. Last season, King averaged 13.8 yards per punt return. This year, he’s way down to 5.6 yards per return. This season, King has fumbled the ball four times, whereas he only fumbled just once (in the regular season) his first two years.

Next: Chargers: Who gets replaced along the offensive line?

The Chargers need a corner in this draft, but it should be a corner taken to replace Davis on the outside. King should not be replaced as a defensive back just yet; however, a strong case can be made for him to have to fight for his job as a returner this offseason. No need to panic just yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on heading into next season.