Over the coming weeks, I will be performing an analysis of each position group on the Chargers roster. The goal is to break down each group and see how each player faired in 2019. This will help to determine which players should be resigned, which positions need to be upgraded via free agency, or the draft, and potential contract extensions for the many players entering their prime. I am pushing for a goal date of March 6th, prior to the start of free agency. Free agency begins March 11th for negotiating, and players may enter into contracts on March 13th, the start of the new league year. This will provide me a week to look at potential free agents the Chargers should resign, and targets to upgrade their own team.
Casey Hayward is a top 5 player at his position. Outside a couple fluke plays this season, Hayward had another All-Pro year. He earned an 84.2 PFF grade, which ranks him 4th among all players at his position and 84.4 in coverage which ranks 5th. From Weeks 8-11, he allowed 1 catch for 6 yards. He did have one “Bad” game that everyone points to against Denver, where Courtland Sutton had a big day. Looking at that game, it wasn’t so much that Hayward had a bad game, as much as it was Sutton making some really terrific plays. On the touchdown where Sutton caught the ball one handed, Hayward had tight coverage. The pass interference penalty was questionable that lead to a field goal as time expired.
Haywards primary strength is in zone coverage. He has great change of direction and plays smart football, key to being a great zone defender. He follows number 1 receivers week in and week out. He has great balance and plays the ball well in the air. He is durable having played every game over the past 4 years. While he allowed 4 touchdowns on the year, he also had 2 interceptions. He really locks down the whole side of the field and was only targeted 47 times this year, which shows how teams view him. Outside Joey Bosa, he has to be the most important player on the defense. Not even Derwin James does what Hayward does in pass coverage. He is deserving of his next contract to make him retire a Charger.
A bent screw in Derwin James foot nearly ended his season. James phenomenal 2018 cannot go overstated. When a player misses as much time as James missed, it changes the protectory of their play. James started coming on strong toward the end of the season, but even by the time he came back, the season was already lost. It is surprising that the Chargers didn’t wrap him in bubble wrap and put him on IR, but the experience is good for a young player. It’s amazing to think that James is only 23 years old and nowhere near his prime. He has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro as long as he is able to stay healthy and stay on the field. I am looking for big things with an James-Adderley combo.
It is amazing how Phillips has managed to stick around so long, not that I am against it. He is a true home-grown and developed Charger if there ever was one. He came in un-drafted and is the third longest tenured Charger on defense outside Damian Square and Melvin Ingram. He is a great player, undervalued and underappreciated. He is a jack-of-all-trades type of player, very similar to Derwin James, and one of the original Jack Boyz. Phillips provides the flexibility to be used at both safety positions, sub linebacker, nickel and dime, and on special teams. He is a strong tackler and plays decent in pass-coverage. Phillips provides Gus Bradley a chess piece to move around literally anywhere on the team, and that flexibility has helped him stick around so long.
Nasir Adderley, a relative of Hall of Famer Herb Adderley, had one of the best pre-season performances seen by any player in quite some time. In that game, Adderley could have had 3 interceptions settling for 1. He is very rangy as a deep safety and looks to be the perfect compliment to Derwin James. Unfortunately, he was lost to a split tendon in his hamstring. To think that he was that rangy with a split tendon is remarkable in itself. Many thought Adderley would be a 1st round draft pick, but miraculously fell to the Chargers in the 2nd round. He has to be a favorite player to be excited about after a redshirt rookie year.
As the teams starting corner, I am higher than most on Michael Davis. He plays pretty well and is super under-rated. He has the speed to line up on the outside and he rarely gives up the long play. He is a strong tackler and he breaks down routes well. The Chargers sorely missed Davis when he was injured, and later when he got in trouble with a drug test after the Mexico City game. I am happy with Davis being the player opposite Hayward and trust him on the outside as our starter. There is talk from fans about replacing him, possibly in the draft, but honestly, he seems capable at handling his own. They do need another corner, but more for depth. Brandon Facsyon isn’t the answer.
Roderick Teamer is a surprising undrafted free agent from last year who actually earned 1st team reps with injuries to Adrian Phillips, Nasir Adderley and Derwin James. The Safety position on the Chargers is one of the deepest positions on the team, so earning a roster spot may still be hard, even if the Chargers choose to keep 5 or more as they did last year. Its unlikely Jaylen Watkins makes a return in the crowded position group, which provides Teamer another opportunity to make the teams roster next year. He could turn into a real gem with more reps and another offseason full of training. He could become a key special teams contributor and may push for playing time again next year.
Desmond King is the teams primary slot corner and the teams designated punt returner. He took a step back from last year in the slot where he was highly praised in 2019. As a returner, he nearly lost his spot, often misjudging the ball in the air, and trying to make acrobatic catches. He is dangerous as a returner, but he has issues actually catching the punt. I would rather have a sure handed punt catcher, rather then a returner who is liable at giving away turn-overs. This is going to be a prove it year for Desmond King. He is prone to bonehead penalties that leave everyone head scratching, but he can be a play maker as well. His play and lack of penalties next year might earn him a second contract, but he can’t have another year like last year. Coach Lynn seems tired of King and his antics on the field. Also, King is limited to his slot role, and he hasn’t been placed outside much in his career.