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Doubling up at cornerback
SAN DIEGO – Don’t the Chargers have Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason?
Yes and yes, though that’s an appropriate question to ask after San Diego selected two cornerbacks in the first three rounds of the April draft.
Neither Donald Strickland nor Dante Hughes has a contract for 2011 as of now, leaving San Diego thin against NFL offenses that often deploy three and four receivers. Practice squad holdover Traye Simmons is the only other cornerback on the roster.
Sure, Steve Gregory has some cover skills and can play nickel back. But, though it was mostly overlooked in pre-draft coverage, the Chargers had a significant need in the secondary. They addressed it by selecting the versatile Marcus Gilchrist and late-bloomer Shareece Wright.
“We’re very, very thin. We’ve only got two corners and a lot of unknowns,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “So the fact that we’ve got two young kids at the same time, we now know that we’ve got four. Not only do we like the talent, but we like the corner depth.”
The Chargers selected just two defensive backs in the first three rounds from 2004-10, Eric Weddle and Antoine Cason.
Weddle has improved in each of his four NFL seasons, earning second-team All-Pro in 2010. Cason started at corner for all 16 games last season, leading the Chargers with 11 passes defensed and four interceptions.
Jammer publicly stated he may switch to safety at the end of his career but Head Coach Norv Turner has been adamant that the senior member of the Chargers defense will stay at corner for his 10th NFL season. It’s not likely either rookie will threaten Jammer or Cason’s jobs, although they may have a better chance to play at the nickel back spot.
“Even if someone’s in front, good players, when they have someone behind them that’s pretty good, it ups their game,” Smith said. “They don’t want to get comfortable. So I think having an edge and keeping positive is always a good thing and it makes you a better football team.”
During the draft, the Chargers indicated that Gilchrist will compete at nickel while Wright adds depth and promise on the outside.
“Nickel’s probably one of my favorites because you combine safety and corner,” Gilchrist said. “You’ve got to cover a lot. You’ve got to be accounted for in the run game. And so I’d probably say that’s one of my favorite positions.”
Wright, encouraged by his senior season at USC after missing most of the previous two years, will be delighted to handle any responsibility.
“Anything they ask of me whether it’s for me to play that nickel spot or play man-to-man on the outside or fly down the field on kickoffs or (play) gunner on special teams, I did it all in my college career,” Wright said.