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10 Things to Watch: The Safety Rotation

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With training camp on the horizon, we’ll preview 10 of the most intriguing storylines to watch for when the Bolts kick things off on July 28.

The importance of the safety position in the Chargers’ system can’t be overstated. L.A. plays a single-high scheme with the free serving as the “eraser” back deep, while the strong safety is in the box as an extra linebacker.

In the months leading up to the NFL Draft, pundits and experts noted Derwin James was the ideal safety in a Gus Bradley-scheme. Well, we’re about to find out as James somehow fell to the Bolts at 17.

However, how James fits in, and the impact he has when it comes to the safety rotation remains up in the air.

Jahleel Addae spent his first four seasons playing free safety before moving to strong last year, where he emerged as an intimidating presence with a career year. Will James’ addition move Addae back to free so the rookie can play strong? Or will free safety end up being where the first-round pick slots in?

Addae insists it doesn’t matter to him where he lines up; he’ll be ready to ball wherever they need him.

“I played free my first four years and a little bit of strong,” he said. “Last year was my first season playing strong all the way. So if they want me to play free with him in the box, then we are going to rock with it. If it’s vice-versa, we’re going to make it happen. We both have two unique stories (coming into this league), but at the end of the day, we gel as one. He’s a baller. I’m a baller. So it’s going to be a lot of balling in this secondary.”

The safety rotation isn’t just limited to Addae and James. Adrian Phillips emerged as an every-down type player for the Bolts a year ago as Bradley deployed him instead of a linebacker the last three-quarters of the season. In addition, Rayshawn Jenkins appears poised to take the next step forward after getting his feet wet as a fourth-round pick a year ago.

So, how does Defensive Backs Coach Ron Milus see them all fitting in heading into training camp?

“That’s still a work in progress,” he admitted. “We’re still trying to figure out where Derwin’s at mentally in our system. We kind of know what Jahleel is able to do, and he can float back to free, he can play strong. Plus, we’ve got AP (Phillips) and Rayshawn who can also play both positions, so the three guys we had a year ago are very flexible. All three of them can play strong safety or free safety, and now we’re just trying to figure out where to slide Derwin into the equation.”

MORE THINGS TO WATCH

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