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2017 Training Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

As we near the start of training camp on July 30, we'll preview each position for the Los Angeles Chargers.  Next up are the Defensive Backs.

Cornerbacks

Casey Hayward –The NFL's reigning interception king returns for his second season with the Bolts.  Hayward earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors a year ago after leading the league with seven picks and ranking third with 20 passes defensed.  A true shutdown corner, he was tasked with going toe-to-toe with the league's elite receivers. Hayward was also named the Chargers' 2016 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Jason Verrett –A Pro Bowler in 2015, Verrett's season was cut short four games into the year after suffering an ACL injury. Verrett enters his fourth season with a reputation as one the NFL's most fierce competitors. He's also a popular presence in the locker room and a natural leader.

Craig Mager –Selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Mager enters his third season looking to carve out his most meaningful role yet.  He started eight of the 11 games he appeared in during his sophomore season, totaling 29 tackles, four passes defensed and one interception. Mager is regarded as one of the Bolts' top athletes.

Trovon Reed –A former wide receiver in college, Reed made an impact after joining the active roster late in the year.  He had a pair of clutch picks in the red zone against Cam Newton and Derek Carr.  The 6-0, 191-pound Auburn product doesn't lack confidence, which is an important trait for a corner.

Trevor Williams –Another confident cornerback, Williams had an impressive rookie year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State.  He started five of the 11 games he took part in, totaling 29 tackles and five passes broken up.

Randall Evans –The 6-0, 195-pound Kansas State product entered the NFL as the 196th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2015 NFL Draft. He spent most of the year on the practice squad before appearing in the season finale. Evans flashed during the Chargers' offseason program, earning praise from Head Coach Anthony Lynn.

Desmond King –Splitting time between safety and nickel corner, King was the Bolts' fifth-round pick in this year's NFL Draft. A former Jim Thorpe Award winner as the top defensive back in college football, the Iowa product has a knack for making the big play.

Michael Davis –An undrafted free agent out of BYU, Davis is another young corner to be singled out by Lynn.  The 6-2, 196-pounder has a rare combination of length and speed.  How he performs once the pads come on will be top of mind.

Brandon Stewart –A 6-0, 171-pound cornerback out of Kansas, Stewart started 21 of 22 games he appeared in for the Jayhawks. He amassed a trio of INTs and eight passes defensed a year ago as a senior, including a 55-yard pick-six.

Brad Watson –The Wake Forest product is best known for a huge 2015 season, setting career-highs with 72 tackles for loss and 16 passes defensed.  Over his collegiate career Watson totaled 161 tackles, 26 passes defensed, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in 49 career games.

Ryan Reid –Signed on June 8, the 5-11, 190-pound Reid ranks eighth in Baylor history with 28 career passes defensed. He also tallied 90 tackles, six interceptions and three forced fumbles in 44 games with 35 starts for the Bears.

We're Keeping Our Eye On

Ricky Henne:As I noted in my 10 Things to Watch for at training camp, the battle for the nickel corner spot is wide open.  Someone is going to stake claim, and I can't wait to watch the healthy competition for the pivotal position.  Guys like Craig Mager, Trevor Williams and Trovon Reed have proven effective in the slot, while youngsters such as Randall Evans, Desmond King and so on will get a fair crack at it. 

Hayley Elwood: I'm eager to see what Casey Hayward can bring to the CB group in his second year with the Chargers.  After all, it can be kind of hard to top 2016's performance, but if anyone can do it, it's Hayward.  After joining the Chargers from the Packers last season, Hayward worked seamlessly into a starting role and his acquisition paid off as he led the league with seven interceptions.  He has a swagger about his game that translates into confidence on the field and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that in 2017.

Safeties

Jahleel Addae –The Chargers made locking up the homegrown talent a priority, inking him to a four-year deal early in free agency.  One of the hardest hitting players in the NFL, "The Hitman" is a tone setter on the back end.  How new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley deploys Addae will be a focal point.

Dwight Lowery –A savvy veteran, Lowery enters his second season with the Bolts.  Despite battling a hand injury in 2016, he tied for the team lead among defensive backs with 59 tackles.  He also finished with eight passes defensed as well as a memorable scoop-and-score against the Tennessee Titans.

Tre Boston –A hot commodity after the draft after his surprising release by the Carolina Panthers, the Chargers landed a young playmaker with significant NFL experience.  Boston has appeared in 42 games with 16 starts, and played a key role in a Panthers' defense that led Carolina to Super Bowl 50.  His top season came a year ago when he set career-highs in starts (10), passes defensed (seven), sacks (two) and interceptions (two).

Adrian Phillips –One of the hardest working players on the team, Phillips is a versatile, dependable safety who is always in position.  The former undrafted free agent out of Texas earned a steady role on the Bolts a year ago after bouncing between the practice squad and active roster his first two seasons.  Phillips finished with 40 tackles, one pick and three passes defensed while starting six of the 14 games he appeared in.

Rayshawn Jenkins –Miami is known for producing top level NFL safeties, and the Chargers hope they've landed the next one in their fourth-round pick.  Jenkins is a punishing presence in the back end who recorded 76 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two picks and seven passes defensed during his final season with the Hurricanes.

Darrell Stuckey –A special teams maven, Stuckey is the longest tenured defensive player on the Bolts roster. He's appeared in 89 games, making the Pro Bowl following the 2014 season.  Well regarded in the locker room, he's a veteran who every young player looks up to.

Dexter McCoil –Boasting rare size for a safety, the  6-4, 220-pound CFL import adjusted well last year in his first NFL season.  He appeared in all 16 games with two starts, totaling 24 tackles, five passes defensed and a game-sealing interception against the Houston Texans.

Adrian McDonald –The Houston product spent all of 2016 on the practice squad after joining the Bolts as an undrafted free agent. McDonald is the Cougars' all-time interception leader, picking off 17 passes over his collegiate career.

We're Keeping Our Eye On

Ricky Henne:This unit returns most of their playmakers from last season, so I want to see what Tre Boston, the veteran newcomer, brings to the table.  It's not often you can add a 25-year old with starting and Super Bowl experience to the roster.  He's fit into the locker room extremely well since first signing, but now I want to see what he can do once the pads come on.

Hayley Elwood:I'm watching Rayshawn Jenkins.  When he first got on the field, Head Coach Anthony Lynn had admitted the rookie's head was spinning.  But, as OTAs and mini camp rolled on, Jenkins became more comfortable and caught the eye of DC Gus Bradley.  At 6-1, Jenkins' height will be a big benefit back in the secondary so I'm looking forward to seeing how he continues to acclimate to the Bolts' system and uses that height to his advantage.

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