Cornerbacks: Casey Hayward, Michael Davis, Troy Pride Jr., Brandon Facyson, Desmond King
Safeties: Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Adrian Phillips, Jaylen Watkins, Rayshawn Jenkins, Roderic Teamer
There’s not a ton of change here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are some subtle tweaks made. To start the season, Casey Hayward and Michael Davis will still be the starters. Don’t be surprised if Troy Pride Jr., a potential draft target at corner, gets some playing time. He’s incredibly fast and is great at shutting down routes using the sideline.
Brandon Facyson is still a decent tackler and will be there as a depth piece. He’ll compete with Davis and Pride when it comes to playing time next to Hayward.
Phillips is a tough prediction. Right now, it feels like the LA Chargers will play it safe and bring him back. It’s not impossible they pass on re-signing him in favor of going with the combo of Nasir Adderley, Jaylen Watkins, and Rayshawn Jenkins. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Chargers decided to go younger.
Anthony Lynn tends to like Roderic Teamer a lot, so he’ll be there, even if lower on the depth chart. The most interesting dynamic when it comes to the safeties for me is who’s playing the most with Derwin James.
Most people would say Phillips, but Adderley is going to come for his spot this year. He’s itching to get back there after his injury and he could progress a lot through training camp and the season. Jenkins, Adderley, and Watkins are likely to be the competition for playing time.
Desmond King is the most interesting name to watch on defense. He’s coming off of a bad coverage year in the nickel, as he gave up one of the highest passer ratings in the league to opposing quarterbacks. If he’s back to his 2018 form, it could be one of the best secondaries in the league. Without his peak performance, it’s harder to praise the unit as a whole.
The defense has fewer pieces in flux in comparison to the offense, but there’s a lot of interesting position battles. Tillery will try to play himself into more snaps following his rookie year. Nasir Adderley’s development after his injury-plagued year will also be of interest, considering his potential.
As far as new faces on the defense, pieces like Suh, Elliott, Phillips, and Pride could all be pretty valuable to different degrees. Pride, in particular, would have a lot of potential as a zone corner.
One thing we know for sure about the defense is that the ends are pretty solidified. Expect great seasons from Bosa and Ingram in contract years, as they will be out to prove their value. Nwosu is probably due for an expanded role as well.