LA Chargers News

LA Chargers: Who benefits most from the possible defensive scheme changes

By Steven Haglund
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 08: Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley of the Los Angeles Chargers smiles prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 08, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 08: Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley of the Los Angeles Chargers smiles prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 08, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) – LA Chargers /

LA Chargers’ secondary benefactors: The safeties

The LA Chargers have the best safety in the league. Someone who is an absolute game-changer at the position. James is going to thrive this season, as he should be fully healthy after having foot surgery last year. But that was always going to be the case, we all knew James was an elite talent and that he would fit into any scheme.

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Once he returned from his injury last year the Chargers moved him around to basically every position on the defense except for defensive tackle. He’ll be more than ok this year, he might be able to blitz more often which will be very fun to watch, but this section is really more about Rayshawn Jenkins, and Nasir Adderly (more on that later)

Unfortunately, Jenkins has received a bit of a bad rap, at least on Twitter. It didn’t help his case when his coach went out and dubbed him as an elite player when he most certainly is not, but he was pretty solid last season.

At the University of Miami, Jenkins played as their version of the strong safety. He primarily played as a downhill, in the box, and physical type of safety. Before this past season he hadn’t played a whole lot in the NFL but when he did it was in that dime linebacker/safety hybrid role. So really, this past season was his first-ever as a free safety.

Now of course there is some overlap occasionally between the two positions but he was learning a brand new position this past year and considering the team used to have Jahleel Addae back there I think he was an upgrade.

The scheme change benefits him because it will allow him to be more aggressive, see the clip below. Playing in a two-deep safety look frees him up to be more of the player he is accustomed to being. Jenkins has always been an athletic freak and he showed that in spurts last season. As I said earlier, James fits in any scheme, but Jenkins needs some help and I think switching the scheme up a bit will help him get to the next level as an NFL player.

Now for Adderly. The second-year player out of Delaware needs to get on the field. Many Chargers fans would have been fine with him as the team’s first-round pick last year, but he ended up falling in their lap in the second round. There is excitement about his ball-hawking ability and particularly how he would pair with the best safety in the league.

Adderly is definitely talented and he is a more natural free safety than Jenkins, but the coaching staff loves what Jenkins has done for them so barring any injury to him, Adderly is going to have to make his mark on special teams and in limited snaps on defense. I think the scheme change helps him get on the field more often.

The Chargers clearly want to move James around and have him be really involved in the box and at the line of scrimmage. If they go into dime package situations with just one linebacker, they would still have two safeties deep and I doubt they would put Roderic Teamer back there over Adderly.

Desmond King could also seem some reps back there but I think that having both King and Jenkins play as the two deep safeties would be a bit repetitive, Adderly would better compliment the rest of the secondary as the 6th defensive back in that situation.

So it seems that dime packages will be his best chance to get on the field on a consistent basis. When they do go to that look, it will give the Chargers a ton of athleticism on the field. As I mentioned earlier it would free up Jenkins to play more to his nature as an aggressive safety and it gives Adderly the freedom to roam around as the rangy free safety he is as well.

Adderly basically redshirted last year and I expect him to come out with his hair on fire during training camp to try and prove he deserves to be on the field. If he’s not able to beat out anyone for key snaps this year he could be looking at a reserve role until next year when Jenkins and King are both headed for free agency.

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