Chargers believe they're set at safety, but eye starting corner in draft

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Jeff Miller
·3 min read
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Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Nasir Adderley (32) intercepts a pass in front of San Francisco 49ers' Tyree Mayfield during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Safety Nasir Adderley (32) intercepts a pass in front of San Francisco 49ers' Tyree Mayfield in 2019. The Chargers are counting on Adderley to be a full-time starter this season. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Los Angeles Times will examine their roster. Part 2 of 8: Defensive backs.

Brandon Staley is the Chargers head coach in 2021 largely because of what he did in 2020.

And what he did was coordinate the NFL’s top defense with the Rams, Staley particularly credited with the increased production of a player such as edge rusher Leonard Floyd.

His next project could be Nasir Adderley, the safety the Chargers drafted in the second round two years ago. After a lingering hamstring issue gutted Adderley’s rookie year, he was pressed into the starting lineup last season following an August knee injury to Derwin James.

“I think he’s our type of safety,” Staley said. “He can see in the deep part of the field. He’s smooth. He’s got a lot of DB traits for us. He’s got some versatility.”

The Chargers loved Adderley’s ball-hawking and athleticism when they took him 60th overall out of Delaware. Some early forecasts had him as a first-round selection.

He has shown glimpses of playmaking ability but also has struggled adjusting to the NFL’s faster, larger and more explosive offensive weapons. He ended up starting 14 games, totaling 69 tackles and producing his first NFL interception.

While making scheme adjustments this offseason, Staley said the Chargers remain committed to Adderley and intend to start him at safety next to James. The Chargers allowed two-year starter Rayshawn Jenkins to depart in free agency, knowing what they had in Adderley.

“He's going to be a good fit for how we want to play,” Staley said.

While settled starting-wise at safety, the Chargers have a significant hole at cornerback, a hole expected to be filled via the draft. Casey Hayward, a starter for the last five seasons, was cut in mid-March.

The Chargers, who also need a starting left tackle, could select Hayward’s replacement with their first pick, No. 13 overall. This draft is considered to be rich at corner. They also could draft another safety for purposes of depth and to continue to strengthen their special teams.

“The more DBs that you have on your roster that are quality players, the more impact they have in the kicking game,” Staley said. “That’s certainly an area that we are looking to address.”

Under contract for 2021: Chris Harris Jr. ($11.25 million), Michael Davis ($6.4 million), Derwin James ($3.9 million), Ryan Smith ($1.5 million), Nasir Adderley ($1.29 million), Brandon Facyson ($945,000), Tevaughn Campbell ($850,000), Alohi Gilman ($826,969), John Brannon ($660,000), Donte Vaughn ($660,000).

Free agents: The Chargers signed Smith, a cornerback, last month mostly to bolster their special teams, which were dreadful in 2020. Smith was a dependable special teamer for Tampa Bay.

Draft: Cornerback and wide receiver are considered to be the deepest positions in the upcoming draft. Among the top corners available are Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley, Asante Samuel Jr. and Greg Newsome II.

Roster decisions: Gilman, a sixth-round pick a year ago, had little impact as a rookie. He played only 71 defensive snaps and 40% of the special teams snaps. The Chargers will want more from him this season.

NEXT: Offensive line.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.