Los Angeles Chargers Cornerback Outlook
Between the underrated returners and the unproven rookie, the Los Angeles Chargers cornerback room is equipped to set the NFL on fire in 2021.
Retaining last year’s breakout starter Michael Davis was a HUGE free agent signing for the Bolts. The five-year veteran joined the squad in 2017 as an undrafted rookie and has done nothing but improve during his time with the organization. These past two seasons he has really come into his own, making 26 starts and racking up 103 tackles, five interceptions, and 23 pass breakups. The former BYU product will have much to prove this season as he looks to live up to the three-year, $25.2 million deal he signed in March.
Chris Harris Jr. will turn 32 years old next month, however, the four-time Pro Bowler is eager to show he has plenty of gas left in the tank. Harris Jr. was one of the many Los Angeles players hit by the injury bug last season. Suffering a foot injury in Week 3, he missed seven games and finished with career lows in games played (nine), passes defended (two), and tackles (37). Entering his second season in Los Angeles, Harris Jr. will begin the year as the team’s starting nickel corner. He will be a free agent after the 2021 season.
Brandon Facyson signed with the Bolts as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech in 2018. With just four career starts to his name, Facyson will look to carve out a bigger role in the Chargers’ secondary moving forward. During his three years in the league, he has compiled 60 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and two fumble recoveries. He will serve as the team’s top backup corner and a key special team contributor.
A practice squad participant in 2019, Tevaughn Campbell appeared in 14 games last year, totaling 22 tackles and three pass break-ups. At 6-foot, 200-pounds he combines plus size with blazing speed and possesses the physicality necessary to disrupt receivers at the line. The former track star set the CFL combine record in the 40-yard dash, running an impressive 4.35. Campbell is a valuable backup who will ideally get most of his playing time on special teams.
The Charger’s decision to release Casey Hayward this offseason was likely an extremely difficult move for the front office to make, but it was a necessary one that freed up nearly $10 million in cap space. Hayward signed with the Chargers as a free agent in 2016 after spending his first four seasons in Green Bay. Over the last five years, Hayward established himself as one of the most productive free-agent signings in franchise history. His leadership, production, and presence will be tough to replace. Hayward recently signed a one-year deal with the division-rival Raiders.
Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, Asante Samuel Jr. was widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in this entire class. Projected to go in the late first-round or early second-round, his slide to the No. 47th overall pick was a bit surprising. Los Angeles wasted no time pulling the trigger on the young ballhawk who will bring an influx of swagger and talent to an already promising secondary. Samuel Jr. is an extremely athletic defensive back who uses his impressive speed and instincts to disrupt receivers.
The Hayward departure left a Pro Bowl-sized hole at outside corner. Still, the Chargers’ future looks extremely bright with Samuel Jr. taking over the reins.
Los Angeles Chargers – Cornerback Outlook
The Chargers pass defense in 2020 played admirably given the amount of injures they battled through. However, the unit finished the season ranked in the middle of the pack in most categories. The arrival of a new head coach and defensive savant Brandon Staley should have a dramatic impact in that regard. Staley coached the Los Angeles Rams to the league’s best defense serving as their defensive coordinator last season, with the team allowing just 18.5 points per game. He is the perfect candidate to maximize the young defensive talent on this roster.
Currently, Davis is the most complete corner on the squad and will reclaim his starting spot from last year on the outside. Samuel Jr. is a mismatch waiting to be exploited and I expect to see Staley move him around often, much like we saw him do with Jalen Ramsey. With this in mind, he will log most of his snaps on the outside where he can use his speed and zone coverage expertise to his benefit.
Harris Jr. has shown throughout his last couple of years in Denver and Los Angeles that he also can play outside but he is much more effective when deployed from the slot at this point in his career. Facyson and Campbell are interesting depth pieces that have both flashed the potential to develop into something more. Those two should provide a boost to a special teams unit that has struggled in recent years.