Secondary in Limbo

The San Diego entered free agency with significant concerns in the secondary this offseason. After a season which saw the pass defense rank 32nd in a 32 team league, Chargers fans figured the defensive backfield would be the first to get fixed. Instead the team has cut players, and spent money on offense.

Now no one is saying that David Boston is not an upgrade, nor is anyone sad about having a premier receiver in San Diego for the first time in decades.

The problem is a secondary is being patch worked together by simply making players change positions. First Rodney Harrison and Alex Molden were let go. Rogers Beckett has been asked to move from one safety spot to the other. Ryan McNeil has been asked to move to safety from cornerback. Not exactly awe inspiring moves.

The free agent pool is filled with corners that do not fit the Chargers plans. No quick fix is available. McNeil in fact may settle back at his customary corner spot before too long. Safeties are available, but with speed and team youth a priority waiting until after June may be the most viable option.

Last year, passes rained down from the heavens on the undermanned Chargers secondary, and the team's lackadaisical approach to the issue bit them squarely in the hindquarters. One wonders what is different in that approach this offseason.

John Butler has said, "You can never have too many corners."

Really?

Well, where are they exactly?

It has become obvious the team would like to get younger and faster. In round one of the Draft they have targeted Marcus Trufant, but he is among the elite in terms of potential and may be out of their grasp. After Trufant the fallout is tremendous.

Round two holds some answers, but most of those are at safety, thus leading to McNeil returning to the familiarity of the cornerback spot. Do they really want two virtual rookies (Quentin Jammer and Draft person X) as their starting cornerbacks?

If the name is Trufant they will take the good with the bad.

Looking at the crop of last years drafted safeties in round two, the results have been impressive.

Lamont Thompson of the Cincinnati Bengals was placed on injured reserve so he gets an incomplete here although we expect him to be outstanding in the future.

Tank Williams of the Tennessee Titans is number one on the depth chart and contributed 56 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery and one interception as a rookie.

Jon McGraw of the NY Jets played well enough that he is now number one on the depth chart after the Jets relieved Damion Robinson of his post this offseason. He had 43 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble used primarily in a backup role.

Michael Lewis of the Philadelphia Eagles rounds out the 2002 safety selections in round two. He also is listed number one on the depth charts. Lewis had 42 tackles, four forced fumbles, one interception and one sack despite not actually getting his first start until December 8th.

The safety spot in this years' NFL Draft offers as much promise.

Rashean Mathis tops the list in the San Diego Chargers eyes for round two talent. Mike Doss is also a favorite but he is considered a tweener, a pick that will happen before the Chargers select in round two and after they select in round one. Ken Hamlin brings some baggage, but his talent cannot be overlooked. Julian Battle is also drawing interest as he soars up the Draft boards. Troy Polamalu is also in consideration. No matter where they go, the safety spot holds promise, especially in round two.

The Chargers needs on defense remain a priority. You would not know it since there's been a gag order in place, and what could be more appropriate for a team that's, well, gagged during the stretch run to the playoffs on what's becoming a consistent basis?

Denis Savage can be reached at: Denis Savage

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