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Marcus Gilchrist Embraces Switch to Safety
One of the bigger questions of the offseason has been who will line up at strong safety next to free safety Eric Weddle.
The answer is a familiar face at a different position.
Marcus Gilchrist, the Chargers primary slot corner in 2012, took first team reps alongside Weddle during the first day of OTA’s. But while he is playing safety for the first time in the NFL, Gilchrist has plenty of experience at the position.
“I’ve always played safety from high school to college,” he said after practice. “It was one of those things where I was working at all the positions. Nothing was set in stone. I just worked at all positions so I’m very comfortable playing safety.”
According to Head Coach Mike McCoy, the decision to shift Gilchrist to safety came down to his philosophy of putting the most talented players on the field at all times.
“We’re trying to find the best players to go out there and play,” said McCoy. “He’s played obviously there before. During the offseason when we got here we talked about position flexibility and possibly putting him back there. So we let him work there for a while and see how comfortable he is and see what we think as a football team. He’s done a nice job so far.”
While Gilchrist is confident at the position, he admits having a safety net in All-Pro Weddle is an invaluable asset as he prepares for 2013.
“Eric’s been tremendous,” he said. “He’s a Pro Bowler. He’s been in the league seven years and has been in this same defense. He’s very smart. He knows all the reads. I’m always asking him questions and he’s always giving me advice.”
Just because he’s taking reps at safety doesn’t mean Gilchrist won’t continue as the team’s slot corner. During practice, he shifted back to that role in nickel packages while Darrell Stuckey took his spot next to Weddle.
“I think playing both positions helps,” he said. “When I’m in the slot, I know where the safety is going to be. I know I can play outside leverage or inside; things like that. So it helps. This game is all about angles and that’s the major difference between the two positions. As safety it’s more being a centerfielder and judging the ball, playing from number to number and making plays. That’s what the great safeties like Ed Reed do. They make plays like that.”
In his new position, Gilchrist will often be tasked with covering the opposing team’s tight end. It’s a good thing he gets to go up against one of the greatest who’s ever played the position in Antonio Gates each and every practice.
“Playing against him helps a lot,” he said. “I enjoy and embrace going up against him. He’s a future Hall of Famer. Getting to go up against a guy as gifted and talented as he is will only make me better. He’ll prepare me to go up against any tight end in the league.”