Chargers Review: CB

The San Diego Chargers have invested their last two first round picks in cornerbacks. And looking back on the season, this group of players is the hardest to grade. How do you assess a unit that was in coverage for five seconds, seven seconds and even ten seconds? Is it fair to tear them down for their 36 touchdown passes against? Or is it more apropos to look at how their yards against dropped from a year ago – and they just couldn't keep their opponents from crossing the finish line?

The team started the year off playing a lot of man coverage before mixing things up midseason. The idea behind playing man was to maximize the people who could run free and make plays.

The problem was the youngsters had a glaring weakness exposed. With their backs to the quarterback as they ran one-on-one in coverage with a receiver, the outside running lanes were exposed. A zone coverage scheme would have allowed the cornerbacks to force the play inside to the linebackers, but in man, they were unable to do that and running backs were able to make huge gains.

As the beatings got handed down, the corners would attempt to cheat on running plays and thus get burned on play action without help over the top.

Quentin Jammer, the 5th overall pick in 2002, got his first chance to start this past year. Early in the season he appeared to have mental lapses that resulted in several touchdowns and big gains. His biggest flaw appeared to be losing the receiver while in a route. Whether he read the offense wrong or was relying on help from the safeties, Jammer was caught out of position far too frequently.

As in training camp when he was going up against Tim Dwight, Jammer bit on several inside-out moves that left him stuttering on the inside as receivers whipped past him on the outside. The most notable of which was against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Plaxico Burress.

All of Jammer's interceptions, four, came with the Chargers either winning or tied. With the Bolts on top, Jammer was able to react to passes more accurately and make plays. Eight of his 13 passes defensed came with the team in the lead, further testament to the defenses inherent advantage when holding the lead. Take away Kansas City as an opponent and Jammer had just one interception.

Unfortunately, on a team that only won four games and held a lead less often, Jammer and the rest of the defense was often left guessing as team mixed the run and pass with equal effectiveness.

When the team switched up and started playing more zone and his first full season wearing on, Jammer got better.

Jammer was the bane of special teams existence early on. The second year corner committed more detrimental penalties on the return team than any ten members of the team combined.

Jammer heads into next year as the starter. He has the talent to be an elite corner, but must start displaying that talent more frequently. Now that he has put his first full season behind him it should come easier.

Sammy Davis earned the starting job in training camp and his emergence was one of the reasons Ryan McNeil was released.

Davis had trouble with double moves throughout the year as the rookie got schooled by veterans who took advantage of his youthfulness. Several games, Davis was the most picked on player on the field. In general, his coverage was tight, but as a rookie he did not have the ability to recognize when the ball was in the air. Davis calls it technique:

"I am really trying to work on my technique and trying to stay consistent," said Davis.

The injury bug hit Davis several times during the season. His injuries affected a leg, his lower back, a hip, an ankle and two separate knees. While he missed parts of games, Davis missed just one game to injury.

Davis struggled in run support. Far too frequently he seemed hesitant in his tackling and his tentativeness led to big gains on the outside.

"I think it can always be better, but it's not something that I think is a major problem for me right now," Davis said.

His lack of aggressiveness in run support and nagging injuries led to Marty Schottenheimer calling for him to gain ten pounds during this offseason.

Like Jammer, Davis nabbed his two interceptions when the team was winning.

Late in the season, Kevin House took over a more prominent role in the secondary. In Detroit when Davis was sidelined late in the game, House had the game of his career. In the fourth quarter alone, House had four passes defensed. That would be his total for the entire year. Did we mention that was a win for the Bolts?

Drayton Florence was a demon in the preseason. He showed his raw athleticism and ability to make breaks on the ball. When the regular season began, however, he was held in check. His aggressiveness was held in check by number one and number two receivers who ran crisp routes. Florence had trouble turning his hips and feet quick enough to handle slants and in routes.

Florence will return as the nickel back for the Chargers. In 2003, it was not uncommon for the safety to take the third receiver. That should change now that Florence is entering his second season.

Late in the season, the Chargers opted to use House more and benched Florence. It was the kind of move that will trigger an emotion in Florence. He takes pride in what he does and will be eager to prove he belongs in the NFL.

House is still raw, yet talented. His biggest flaw is an overaggressive attitude, which haunts him in the NFL. When facing the better quarterbacks, they can lure him into precarious positions.

House will likely return in the same role he had in '03 – a backup who can provide some solid cornerback play.

The common theme among all the corners was if the team was ahead, their play was elevated. It is much easier to anticipate pass when the Bolts hold the lead. This group will be counted on heavily in the future, but they can only hold so long. Pressure up front will play a big part in their confidence and development.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

SD Super Chargers Top Stories