One of the several excellent free-agent signings that the LA Chargers made this offseason was bringing in former Denver Bronco, Chris Harris. The Chargers needed help on the secondary and added a seasoned veteran who is going to be a difference-maker all over the field.
Harris may no longer be in his prime but he is still an effective cornerback that is more valuable due to his ability to play in the slot. While he likely will be used at times out wide, Harris has confirmed that the Chargers are bringing him in to primarily be the slot corner, which is the role he started his career in and was best at.
Former All-Pro corner Desmond King is likely going to transition to the Adrian Phillips-type role on the defense with the signing of Harris and Phillips signing with the New England Patriots.
With King hopefully returning to form in a new role and the addition of Harris, it might not seem like the Chargers need another cornerback. If you just look at surface-level statistics, you could easily come to that conclusion as the Chargers allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards per game last season.
It is not a dying need for the Chargers and they would be fine by just adding a veteran rotational corner or someone in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft, but it is a need. If it goes unaddressed it could expose a hole in a defense that is being highly touted.
Michael Davis and Brandon Facyson will be the two primary outside corners aside from Casey Hayward and just the eye test can tell us that they might not be the best suitors for the job. However, if we look at advanced statistics, we can really see how the Chargers struggled against wide receivers last season despite their passing yards allowed per game.
Why the LA Chargers need to add a cornerback:
There are two stats that are concerning.
Warren Sharp is an NFL statistical genius and runs the Sharp Football Stats website, where we can get some valuable information about how the Chargers succeeded against opposing offenses in different situations.
First is the success rate that the LA Chargers had against three wide receivers in a 1-1 personnel. This means there were three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end on the offensive side of the ball.
This is, by far, the most popular passing personnel that teams use in the NFL and the Chargers really struggled against it. The team allowed a 49 percent success rate, which was the fourth-worst in the NFL last season.
How do we know it was the receivers, though, that were doing the damage?
Also using Sharp’s numbers, we can look at the pass success rate that the defense allowed by position group. The reason why the Chargers were so successful in passing yards allowed, especially to receivers, is that teams did not target receivers that much against the Bolts.
54 percent of passes against the Chargers were thrown to wide receivers, which was the fifth-fewest in the league. In terms of the total number of pass attempts to wide receivers, the 243 passes thrown to receivers against the Chargers last season was dead last.
Teams ran the ball more against the Chargers, which is another issue that will be addressed for another day, and passed to running backs 26 percent of the time, the highest percentage in the league.
You would think that teams threw to wide receivers fewer times because the Chargers were successful in defending them, right? Well, that is not the case. Receivers had a 55 percent success rate against the LA Chargers last season, which was 28th in the NFL.
So the team’s lack of a good running defense is what led to the low yards per game number, but don’t let fool you into thinking that the secondary was great last season, it really wasn’t.
Some of that is attributed to injuries and the team will be better with a full season of Derwin James, Chris Harris and a hopefully better Desmond King, but the Chargers are not building off of a good secondary.
They are building off of a bad secondary that really struggled against wide receivers last season. They are making the proper steps, but one cornerback addition simply is not enough.