Welcome to Part 8 of our 2022 positional recaps, a series that will run through the next few weeks and highlight all 10 Chargers position groups. We'll focus on key stats, big moments and look ahead to the 2023 season.
The Bolts cornerback unit was among the team's more consistent positions in 2022, even as the group battled through injuries.
J.C. Jackson was a prized free-agent addition who looked superb in training camp, but August ankle surgery derailed the start of his season.
Jackson showed flashes through five games in powder blue, but his season came to an early end in Week 7 with a torn patella tendon in his knee.
Michael Davis filled in admirably in Jackson's place and was one of the league's best cornerbacks in the second half of the season.
"I don't like to single out players, but I couldn't be more proud of a player and how he played this year, from the start of OTAs to now, and how he handled this situation," said Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco.
"He got his opportunity this year and he just played lights out for us. Without how we played, I don't know if we would have had 10 wins this year," Telesco later added. "He's just so competitive on the football. He is just a rock-solid player for us. I am really proud of how he handled the whole offseason, the regular season."
Second-year cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr., led the position group with 15 starts. He displayed plenty of promise, including in the postseason, and should only get better in the coming years.
Veteran Bryce Callahan manned the slot after joining the Bolts as a free agent and played well. He provided consistency on the field and leadership off it, helping youngsters such as rookie Ja'Sir Taylor, who started three games in the second half of the year.
Taylor spoke about his growth after the season.
"I feel like in this league, you need to be up there to really get your feet underneath you and play, see how it feels," Taylor said. "When I'm on special teams, it's a little bit different than going out there on defense.
"It's a whole different beast, but getting all those reps and most importantly, having the veterans in my room right there next to me, guiding me each step of the way," Taylor added. "Lot of credit to those guys."
Fellow rookie Deane Leonard played a handful of defensive snaps in 2022 but was a key contributor on special teams.
Take a look at the best photos from the Chargers 2022 campaign through the lens of team photographer, Mike Nowak, manager of photography, Ty Nowell, seasonal photographer, Mackenzie Hudson, and gameday photographer, Noel Vasquez.
From Weeks 12-18, Davis ranked first among outside cornerbacks with a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 84.0 (minimum of 200 snaps).
Entering Week 14, the Dolphins boasted one of the league's top aerial attacks.
The Chargers secondary, particularly the cornerbacks, put the clamps down on Miami's passing game.
Davis, Samuel and Taylor got the starts at cornerback — Callahan was out with an injury — and the trio all played at least 90-percent of the defensive snaps.
The end result?
Miami had just one explosive passing play as the Dolphins completed just four passes through three quarters. The defensive effort jumpstarted a four-game game win streak that boosted the Bolts into the playoffs.
Asante Samuel, Jr.
Recorded 57 total tackles, one tackle for loss, 11 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two interceptions; appeared in all 17 games (15 starts) and played 972 defensive snaps (92.84 percent).
Recorded 62 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one QB hit, 1.0 sack and 15 passes defended; appeared in all 17 games (12 starts) and played 791 defensive snaps (75.55 percent).
Recorded 47 total tackles, two QB hits, two tackles for loss and six passes defended; appeared in all 15 games (11 starts) and played 586 defensive snaps (55.97 percent).
Recorded 15 total tackles with two passes defended; appeared in five games (five starts) and played 244 defensive snaps (23.30 percent).
Recorded 22 total tackles and one pass defended; appeared in 17 games (three starts) and played 161 defensive snaps (15.38 percent).
Recorded five total tackles, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery; appeared in 17 games and played four defensive snaps (0.38 percent).
Take a look back at some of the best Chargers photos in monochrome from the 2022 season
2 questions for 2023
1. How does Jackson return from injury?
Jackson's arrival nearly a year ago was met with plenty of fanfare, but his first season with the Bolts was over before it really began.
The cornerback had a tough go of things with an ankle surgery followed by a serious knee injury just before the midway point of the season.
When healthy, Jackson remains one of the league's best players at his position. But his health will be something to monitor in the coming months, as Telesco said as much in his year-end presser.
"What he has going for him is his age and the fact that he's in such great physical condition that he should be able to come back from this injury. I think I told you all before, it's not an injury that we see that often," Telesco said. "We see it from time-to-time. It's not like some other injuries where you can really have a good prediction of what that time of return will be.
"He's been here rehabbing and he's moving along. To have an exact timeframe of when he'll be ready, I'm not really sure yet," Telesco added. "We'll probably know more, I expect, deeper in the offseason if he's ready for any type of OTAs or training camp, and kind of go from there."
2. Do the Bolts add more depth here in the draft?
The Chargers have drafted three cornerbacks in the past two seasons in Samuel, Taylor and Leonard.
Jackson and Callahan were 2022 free-agent additions, but the latter is scheduled to be a free agent again this spring. Davis, meanwhile, is still under contract.
The Chargers have high-end players in Jackson and Davis, plus young talent in Samuel and Taylor. But if they want to continue to add depth at the position, perhaps a Day 3 draft pick makes sense.
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