Chargers: The key to fixing Brandon Staley's defense
By Faustino Felix
Potential options to be the Chargers CB1:
What is currently an average secondary can become a top unit in the NFL if they can find that third piece to lead a cornerback trio along with Davis and Samuel Jr., and the safety duo of Derwin James and Nasir Adderley. Ideally, a player that can be left on his own against the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Ja'Marr Chase.
Obviously, that's not easy. Players like Ramsey are generational. But someone that can stick with a talent like the one's just mentioned maybe not all game long, but often enough, will give Staley seven players between the rest of the secondary and the linebackers to assist the run game, disguise coverages and pressure, and create a numerical advantage on passing downs.
So what options are out there? The not so loaded free agent CB class is headed by J.C. Jackson and Carlton Davis. Jackson is a great player who thrived in 2021, but it looked like his skills were maximized the most when playing alongside Stephon Gilmore, who is also a free agent but not likely a long term solution, as he's on the wrong side of 30.
Jackson would be a great player to have on the team, but an expected price tag of ~$20 million per year might be too much for his quality. Carlton Davis is a solid cornerback too, but not clear if he's worth $20 million either.
As it stands, the Chargers have to look at trade options or drafting a cornerback in the first round to get the most value. If a guy like Sauce Gardner from Cincinnati is there at 17, I think he would be a no brainer. Other good options that might be available for the Chargers are Roger McCreary from Auburn, or Andrew Booth Jr. from Clemson.
There's also Kaiir Elam from Florida, who has big question marks in the tackling department, but if he's the guy the coaching staff thinks can lock down receivers in coverage, then they have to take their guy and coach him up. Derek Stingley Jr. from LSU sliding to #17 like Derwin James did a few years ago is the absolute best-case scenario, but that's just a pipe dream.
But are these guys ready to lock down the opposing No. 1 from day one? Likely not. They might be a longer term solution that can be paired up with a veteran free agent on a short deal such as Gilmore. In a top-heavy cornerback class, and with the prospects available at other positions of need in Day 2 of the Draft, the Chargers should pounce on a cornerback that will become a cornerstone of the defense.
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The Chargers defense is expected to be much improved in 2022, however the offseason progresses. But for the unit to be the perennially great defense everyone imagined under Brandon Staley, the Bolts need find that lockdown cornerback that allows his ideology to flourish.