Chargers cornerbacks answering the bell

Despite all the praise and accolades the Chargers have received this season, there is one area of the team not getting nearly the credit it deserves - the cornerbacks. Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence and Antonio Cromartie have all played lights-out football this season in anchoring a pass defense which now ranks in the league‘s top dozen.

No player's improvement has been more drastic than Jammer's. He has been aggressive as always in coming up to defend the run, and with 71 tackles he is just one away from matching his career high. He has also continued his steady play in coverage, playing tight defense while failing to yield the big play.

His most marked improvement has been in generating turnovers. Jammer has intercepted four passes already this season and has shown the ability to make a play on the ball that was lacking in years past.

"Defensively, our secondary play has improved. Quentin Jammer, in every phase, played terrific for us. They are getting more confidence," Marty Schottenheimer said.

Florence has been playing opposite Jammer but in an identically impressive manner. He has three interceptions on the season but could easily have thrice that number if he had done a better job securing the ball. His scorer's mentality tends to make him try to run with the ball before ever catching it.

"I try to make something happen every time I get it," he said.

Still, his 13 pass break-ups are inarguably impressive.

Many assumed that when Cromartie was drafted he was going to take Florence‘s starting job by midseason. Not only is Florence still in the starting lineup, but he should be considered the early favorite to stay there in 2007 as well.

That is not to say that Cromartie has been a disappoint. While the rookie has yet to come up with his first interception as a professional, he has been far steadier in coverage than the team could have ever anticipated.

Cromartie sees ample time as the nickel back and has held his own in man-to-man coverage against the likes of Torry Holt and Chad Johnson. His contributions have also come on special teams, where he has returned 10 kicks for 297 yards, including a 91-yard return that set up an easy score against the rival Raiders.

"I have game-changing ability," Cromartie said. "I'm going to come up with big plays on defense, and on returns, too."

The success of the cornerbacks has affected every facet of the team. Their stellar coverage has helped allow the team to lead the league with 60 sacks. Those sacks produce turnovers, which gives the league's highest-scoring offense more opportunities to put points on the board.

The Chargers' cornerbacks were long seen as the team's Achilles' heel. Now, instead of costing the team wins, they are helping deliver them.


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