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LA Chargers: Grading the new 2020 secondary group

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 22: Casey Hayward #26 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts to an offensive pass intererference call against Michael Crabtree #15 of the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a game at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 22: Casey Hayward #26 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts to an offensive pass intererference call against Michael Crabtree #15 of the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a game at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

With Chris Harris on the roster, how does the LA Chargers’ secondary grade?

The secondary is probably considered by many to be the best group of players on the LA Chargers. Casey Hayward has been a top-five cornerback in the league ever since he signed with the Chargers. Other than him, Desmond King has been an above-average slot and nickel cornerback. At safety, Derwin James is a physical defensive star.

This offseason, the Chargers made an offer that Chris Harris couldn’t refuse. The former Bronco decided to take his talents to Los Angeles on a two-year deal. There’s a lot to figure out with the exact role Harris will play, but it’s certainly never bad to add a defensive talent with his slot coverage ability.

Despite all the star power, there are question marks about pieces of the Chargers’ secondary. How good is Michael Davis going to be in his second year of starting opposite Hayward? Davis was thrown into action early last year after Trevor Williams was released following injuries. Another question is free safety. Losing Adrian Phillips to the Patriots in free agency created a void that must be filled.

Casey Hayward

Defenses have learned to not throw to Hayward’s side of the field, even if their top receiver is there. He’s a top-five cornerback in the league and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

Durability is a strong trait of Hayward’s. In each of the last three seasons, he’s played all 16 games. His consistency and durability have been especially impressive. 2017 was the best coverage year for Hayward, but 2019 may have been his most impressive year in terms of what was happening around him.

James and Phillips? Out. Williams? Cut after injuries. By Week 3, the Chargers’ secondary was effectively Davis, Brandon Facyson, undrafted free agent Roderic Teamer at strong safety, and Hayward. When considering those circumstances, it’s amazing Hayward was still as dominant as he was.

Hayward only gave up more than 70 yards against DeAndre Hopkins and Corey Davis. In all of the other weeks, he effectively shut down all of the other number one receivers.

The storyline to watch with Hayward in 2020 is if he’s able to stay on top of his game as he turns 31. We’ve seen elite cornerbacks go downhill as they age into their 30s. While I’m not of the mindset that it will be a problem for Hayward yet, it’s always something that comes eventually.

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