Primary Issues In The Secondary

When the San Diego Chargers released their starting secondary from last year's disaster and replaced then mainly through this year's draft, critics said that the rookie learning curve would prevent the Chargers defense from being playoff caliber this season. True enough, all four rookies taken in the draft have been a whisker away from the starting line-up.

Sammy Davis was projected to start opposite Quentin Jammer from the day he was drafted. Drayton Florence shined in camp so much so that there was talk about moving him to starting free safety. Terrence Kiel was running first team during mini camp, and would still be there now if not for the gunshot wounds he received on the fourth of July. And after Terrance was injured, Hanik Milligan made a run at becoming the starting strong safety until his injury forced Kwame Lassiter back to that position.

But as a Chargers fan, the only thing scarier than a secondary starting all of these rookies, is a secondary starting none of them. A young secondary was indeed a target, but at least it had speed and potential. Replacing Rodney Harrison and Keith Lyle with Kwamie Lassiter and Jerry Wilson is just a simple downgrade of talent. Wilson and Lyle are similar players, veterans who are game smart and consistent if not spectacular. The main difference is Lyle was a natural free safety with starting experience. And Lassiter and Harrison are both elite safeties, but with Lassiter playing out of position, he may be no better in pass coverage than Rodney was. At least the Hitman was an intimidator and team leader.

More concerning was Sammy Davis' inability to overtake Tay Cody in the starting line-up. Marty Schottenheimer released the ultra productive Nick Maddox during the first round of cuts because he was too small to be an every down back. Well Tay Cody is too small to be an every down corner, especially in the Bolts aggressive defense, and a guy with Sammy Davis's size, speed and income couldn't even bump him from the line-up.

This is very disconcerting.

"I think that it will be a lot of fun," Davis said. "It's a dream come true just to play a game in the NFL."

It appears to have taken an injury to Cody to allow the natural progression to transpire.

"My job is to help this team in nickel, special teams, or even if I was to start, at corner," Cody countered. "Just do whatever they ask me to do."

The good news is things will get better. Terrance Kiel is back and as soon as he is ready he is our starting strong safety. That will allow Kwame Lassiter to move back to his natural position at the free, and Jerry Wilson to move back to his natural position of the bench. Sammy Davis will develop into a fine starting corner, and he better do it quick because if he doesn't become a fixture in the starting line-up opposite Quentin Jammer soon, then Drayton Florence will.

However, the most important piece of good news is that the Chargers still have Quentin Jammer. Forget the penalties that have plagued his good name this preseason; this guy can and will be a dominator. Talent-wise he may be the best cornerback in the league, no exceptions. With the help of Jerry Holmes and Coach Marty, I expect Quentin to have a stellar season and an outstanding career in blue and gold.

So expect the Chargers to struggle early on this year just as they did late last year in defending the pass. The difference this year is Bolts Backers have hope. All the Chargers need is for Terrance Kiel to hurry up and be healthy and for either Sammy Davis or Drayton Florence to hurry up and become solid starters and then the Chargers can hurry up and start winning.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at BostonLTeaParty@yahoo.com

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