Heading into training camp, it’s worth taking a look at a few IDP position battles that have yet to be resolved. There is potential production available on the waiver wire depending on who wins each role. And knowing who’s competing in each battle will give you a leg-up when injuries inevitably occur.
LA Chargers Secondary
The Chargers secondary is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. It also prompted this series. The Chargers have one of the top secondaries in the league. Last season, Tre Boston played every snap, focused at single high FS. Jahleel Addae played all but nine snaps primarily at the SS, in Kam Chancellor’s productive role in the Seattle defense. Due to a dilapidated LB depth chart, former UDFA safety, Adrian Phillips played part-time at WILL.
At CB, Jason Verrett lasted almost a full game, forcing Trevor Williams into a starting outside role, a role he excelled in. Casey Hayward continues to be the stud he’s been ever since he left the frozen tundra for the sunny west coast. Finally, the Chargers got a steal in the 5th Round with Desmond King. As a rookie, King was one of the best slot CBs in the league.
LA let Boston walk in free agency. Verrett has yet to play in 16 games after four seasons, and Derwin James dropped in the Chargers lap in the draft. They added safety Kyzir White in the 4th Round. They’ve already said White is going to play the WILL. White has more draft capital than Jatavis Brown…
So how do the Chargers maximize this talented unit and get the best players on the field? James has the athleticism and physical makeup to play almost anywhere. He’s got the athleticism to play single-high. He’s got the size to play moneybacker. He’s a productive blitzer out of the slot. His best position may well be a defensive playmaker, lining up all over the field to keep opposing offenses off balance.
This defensive scheme requires someone to spend a majority of snaps at single-high safety. Without Boston, they’ve been giving Addae snaps there at OTAs, but it’s not a natural fit for him. James can play single-high, but that’s not using James to the best of his abilities. Another option would be King, who draft pundits expected to transition to safety given somewhat limited athleticism. Moving King to safety, however, leaves a hole at CB, as expecting 16 games from Verrett is a fool’s errand. (Editors’ Note: Verrett may be done for the season after an injury at trainging camp.)
Phillips may be left without a role. They’ve already said White is going to play the WILL. If White steps up as a rookie, it’s likely Phillips’ role that he’ll take. White has more draft capital than everyone’s favorite former 5th Rounder Jatavis Brown…
LA Chargers LBs
In 2017, the Chargers had a top three secondary and arguably the best duo of defensive ends in the league. The weak spot on their defense was obviously their linebackers. Former 2nd Rounder Denzel Perryman was limited to 7 games. He has yet to play 16 games in a season in his three-year career. Perryman ended the year with 37 tackles on 274 snaps.
Former 5th Round darling Jatavis Brown started the season strong, 40 tackles over the first four games. Then the wheels came off. Brown played through a high ankle sprain and was never the same. His snap count never snapped back. Over the first four weeks, Brown topped 90% of snaps every week. From Week 5 onward, he topped 50% of the snaps in only three games. Whether this was a result of him never fully recovering from the high ankle sprain or whether the coaches just thought they had a better chance of winning with someone else on the field, we don’t know. Popular reasoning is Brown struggled with the scheme change.
Perryman’s extended absence allowed Hayes Pullard to get some play early in the season. Pullard is a former 7th Round pick by the Browns who ended up in Jacksonville. When Gus Bradley signed on with the Chargers, Pullard followed him. He was expected to go undrafted until he wrote an open letter to every NFL GM prior to the draft explaining how he read offenses and what he thought of loyalty. Surprisingly, Pullard continued to play limited snaps even after Perryman returned healthy. Pullard finished with 74 tackles and one interception while playing 476 snaps last season. The defense would likely be more successful if Pullard’s snaps were limited.
Beyond the big three, there are three more names worth mentioning. Kyle Emanuel played the 2-down SAM and totaled 303 snaps on the season despite playing in all 16 games. Former 5th Rounder Korey Toomer was in and out, playing 266 snaps in 15 games. Toomer has had an expansive tour of the country thanks to the NFL. After spending two seasons on the Seahawks practice squad, he’s since played in five cities in the last five seasons and will be in his sixth next year. Finally, former UDFA Adrian Phillips came down from the safety position to help out the LB corps in limited snaps last season. Safeties playing LB are IDP cheat codes. Phillips put up some fantastic production for several weeks towards the end of the fantasy season. He topped 70% of snaps in eight games. He hit 8 tackles in two separate games and had a 12-tackle game against New England.
So to improve their LB corps during the offseason, they let an LB walk in free agency, and they drafted a DT, a DE, and two safeties… Toomer will be patrolling the Bay this season. They got creative in the draft. Third Round pick Uchenna Nwosu, an undersized edge, is ticketed for the 2-down, SAM role on defense, assuming he can beat out Emmanuel.
Converted-safety, 4th Round pick Kyzir White is already transitioning to the WILL role. I’ve seen stories saying he could be limited to start due to being undersized. At the combine, White was 6’2” and 218 lbs. Brown (5’11” and 221 lbs.) and Phillips (5’11 and 210 lbs.) played the WILL last season. White is taller but falls exactly within their weight range. He could be productive in a limited role the same as Phillips was last season.
Last year there were five games of 100% of snaps played among the entire LB corps. At previous coaching stops, Bradley has had two LBs play 90% or more of the snaps for a season, so the goal should be to achieve that again. I would expect Perryman at MIKE and on the field for three downs for as long as he’s healthy. Pullard should backup the oft-injured Perryman meaning he’ll still have value as a handcuff. Nwosu should play the SAM but leave the field enough to make him unproductive for IDP. The WILL will come down to Brown, White or Phillips. Phillips is likely the odd man out because he doesn’t match the colorful naming scheme. It has potential to be a messy committee this season, but I would expect either White or Brown to win out in the end and play a 3-down role.
Imagine an all-star defense of just the LA teams, you’d have likely the best d-line you could construct out of current players between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the outside and Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on the inside. The secondary would be stifling, Lamarcus Joyner single high with Derwin James as a box safety and Casey Hayward, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and your choice of two of the best slot CBs in the league between Desmond King and Nickell Robey-Coleman. And the linebackers would be Mark Barron and Perryman… Linebackers aside, the other 30 teams in the league combined would be hard-pressed to muster a better all-star defense.
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