Tossing the secondary

The Chargers new 3-4 defense is designed to pressure the quarterback. Some may argue that it is because the Chargers are averaging exactly one sack per game that the secondary is being so exposed. However, the truth is that with the team having invested so heavily in its secondary, it is up to the cornerbacks to provide solid coverage so that the front seven has more time to get to the quarterback.

"We have a lot of talent," Jammer says.

Quentin Jammer is the team's alleged shut-down cornerback. The word alleged must be attached here because it is Jammer who has been beat on the decisive play in each of the last two losses. He claims that when covering Santana Moss he was attempting to jump a short route, and then got beat deep and could not quite recover in time to make a play on the ball. Jammer also states that when going against Ashley Lelie he was pushed in the back while the ball was in the air. Whatever the reasons are, truth or no, the team needs more interceptions and fewer excuses from the former top-five selection.

"I thought the last half of the season he played very effectively," Marty Schottenheimer said. "And he has been great for us this year."

Opposite Jammer is Sammy Davis, another former first round pick. Davis is more of a finesse player whose speed and technique are his strongest attributes. He has frequently appeared lost in coverage, however, and has been caught chasing plays from behind too many times this season. Most discouraging is that even when Davis is in position, he has yet to make a play on the ball.

The nickel back is Drayton Florence, who is an enigma to say the least. Every training camp he looks all-world, then for one reason or another that success always seems to dissipate come September. Florence was given starting duty in the preseason finale and was beat badly by Brandon Lloyd all game long. It is debatable if his confidence has yet to recover. He is a strong corner with good size, but he has struggled mightily with receivers who are quicker and more explosive in and out of their cuts.

Because of this fact, Florence may be moved to free safety at the end of the season, if not sooner. By then Jerry Wilson's contact will be up, so there will be a vacancy there. Also, the team would love to find a way to get him onto the field, if for no other reason than to say than to show that he is not just another high draft pick wasted by the organization.

The final corner on the roster is Jamar Fletcher. This is the same Jamar Fletcher that was drafted by the Dolphins in first round of the 2001 NFL draft. At the time, the Dolphins were criticized for taking Fletcher over Drew Brees despite their needs at quarterback. Those critics have since been silenced.

Fletcher is a playmaker. He left the University of Wisconsin after his junior season as the school's all time interceptions leader with 27 picks. Those are the kind of ball skills that are needed opposite Jammer. When teams throw away from Jammer, the Chargers need someone who can come up with a big play on a regular basis. Fletcher should handle this role well as he is used to being the target of opponents' passing games, as he began his career playing between Pro Bowl regulars Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. Now in his fourth season, Fletcher also provides experience to a very green secondary.

"In my eyes, I think we have one of the best secondary's in the country and in this league because Drayton Florence has been making plays, Sammy Davis has been making plays, Terrence Kiel – everybody has been making plays," Jammer said in defense of the secondary.

With their pass defense struggling, the Chargers need to make a change. What they should do is insert Fletcher into the starting line-up opposite Jammer. Then in obvious passing situations, Fletcher should move inside to cover the slot receiver while Davis lines up outside. Hopefully the decreased role will help motivate Davis, as well as lighten his burden as a constant target.

Florence should then be used in the dime defense packages. He should also replace Tim Dwight returning kickoffs. While Dwight can provide the occasional big play, it is of greater importance to get Florence more involved in order to help keep his head in the game. Also, Florence needs to start spending some practice time at free safety. The team must recognize that this position swap may not only be best for Florence, but for the team as well, as it may cross a need off of next off-season's shopping list.

This team has invested heavily in its secondary, and it is time they manufactured some return on that investment.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net

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