Secondary should be primary

The excuse has been made for years that the Chargers secondary is young but that case bears no weight these days, especially with a pronounced pass rush to supplement the defensive backfield.

Time and again, Marty Schottenheimer has pointed to the youth in the secondary as a deterrent from them reaching their full potential. But at some point that swag gets old – just like the players gain a year on the birth certificate.

In 2005, the defense rang up 46 sacks – which should have resulted in better play from the secondary and more opportunities for the elusive interception.

Instead, the secondary went backwards in the turnover department. After snaring 23 picks in 2004, the club came back with ten this year and only two came from its starting cornerbacks. Two individual players had ten picks this year – Ty Law and Deltha O'Neal.

A mark of a team that is seeking the playoffs is turnovers – creating a short field for the offense – and the Chargers defense did not accomplish that task during their 9-7 season.

With teams passing on them regularly for fear of their stout run defense, the defense squandered opportunities.

Quentin Jammer may have had a solid year in pass coverage but the team still yielded one more touchdown against in the passing game than a year ago.

The biggest problem isn't necessarily the corners either. Drayton Florence took a step backwards, but is emerging. The play of the safeties, however, continues to haunt a team looking to take it to the next level.

Bhawoh Jue was an upgrade to Jerry Wilson but that is not saying much. Terrence Kiel may play well inside the box but someone needs to show him the window in that box and have him climb out and make some plays in the passing game.

The organization remains steadfast in pounding the NFL Draft drum but it is rare that a defensive back makes his mark as a rookie. In fact, it may be the hardest position, other than quarterback, to excel as a first-year player.

There are some interesting names on the free agent market. Adam Archuletta is popular but not a game-changer with three career interceptions over five years. Corey Chavous is far more intriguing with his 14 interceptions over the last four seasons.

But the biggest sleeper may be Marlon McCree. A five-year veteran, McCree has been in and out of the lineup as a starter but produces when he lines up.

A former seventh round pick, McCree has played both free and strong safety with 39 starts in 60 games coming into the year and 14 games this year. He could be the Steve Foley of the coming year.

The mistake would be to expect a rookie defensive back to make a long-lasting impression heading into 2006. They can't afford to have unremarkable play in the secondary and the draft may build a majority of the team but it can't be expected to create miracles.

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