Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon. The Bolts will host 10 open practices as they welcome fans back to Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.
The Bolts are looking for a repeat appearance in the postseason as they enter Year 3 under Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, and have a roster filled with talent and work ethic.
Chargers.com will take a look at each position group leading up to training camp. The cornerbacks are up next.
Who's on the roster?
J.C. Jackson (6th NFL season; 2nd with Chargers), Michael Davis (7;7), Asante Samuel, Jr., (3;3), Ja'Sir Taylor (2;2), Deane Leonard (2;2), Kemon Hall (3;2), Michael Jacquet (2;2), Cam Brown (1;1), AJ Uzodinma (1;1) and Taiwan Mullen (1;1).
The Bolts had one of the league's best cornerback groups a season ago.
That was evident by the fact that the Chargers ranked seventh in the NFL by allowing 200.4 passing yards per game.
But as this group gets even more comfortable with Brandon Staley's scheme, it has the potential to be even better in 2023.
The unit is still headlined by J.C. Jackson, who provides All-Pro potential if he's on the field.
But with Jackson missing most of the 2022 season due to injury, the trio of Michael Davis, Asante Samuel, Jr. and Ja'Sir Taylor thrived during a playoff push.
Davis was one of the league's most consistent corners in the second half of the season and led the NFL in passes defended from Weeks 9 to 18 last season.
Take a look at the Chargers Defense in uniform at Media Day 2023
Samuel, who was consistently solid in 2022, then had a breakout playoff game with three first-half interceptions in Jacksonville.
And if you're looking for a player who could carve out a larger role for himself this season, Taylor could fit the bill in the slot.
Chargers Passing Game Coordinator/Secondary Coach Tom Donatell said this offseason that Taylor is on the short list of players vying for playing time there.
"We've got to find out who our Star position is. Is it going to be him, [Derwin James, Jr.], Star by committee?," Donatell said.
If Taylor grows into a starting role, he might not play as much special teams as he did a year ago. But Deane Leonard is expected to once again play a key role in that phase just as a he did as a rookie.
Don't forget that Taylor and Leonard teamed up on punt coverage to help force the eventual game-changing takeaway in a home win against Denver.
Kemon Hall and Michael Jacquet both have experience in this scheme and could be candidates for the practice squad in 2023.
A trio of undrafted rookies — Cam Brown, Amechi Uzodinma and Taiwan Mullen — round out the cornerback group.
"Guys were getting on the same page, playing together as a unit and that's what we expect to continue to build off of that and get J.C. back in the fold healthy and continue to build the depth and continuity within our group." — Donatell on the continuity within the cornerback group.
Player to watch: J.C. Jackson
We're going with Jackson here, even if his status for training camp is unknown at the moment.
He suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 7 of the 2022 season and then spent the next eight months grinding away at his rehab.
And the update Jackson provided to reporters in mid-June was a positive one.
"I wouldn't put a percentage on it," Jackson said. "But I'm getting there. I'm almost to where I want to be."
Jackson later noted he was given a seven to eight-month recovery timeline and said he's "right on track" with that.
Jackson also noted he was scheduled for a doctor appointment on June 19 to determine if he would be cleared for camp.
We'll soon find out if the Pro Bowler is on the field in the early days of camp.
But in looking at Jackson's potential impact this season, imagine a scenario where he is fully healthy and back at the top of his game.
In this case, the Bolts could have an elite cornerback group of Jackson, Davis, Samuel and Taylor, and one that could help lead the Chargers on a deep playoff run.
Key question: Can Michael Davis replicate his late-season success?
A thought to ponder: would the Bolts have made the playoffs last season without Davis?
Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco noted Davis' stellar late-season play after the 2022 season was over.
"I don't like to single out players, but I couldn't be more proud of a player and how he played this year," Telesco said.
Davis has had a rollercoaster NFL journey so far, going from undrafted free agent to getting a sizable contract to then having to learn a new defensive scheme.
It took Davis 25 or so games to click with that system, but there's no denying he did in the final two months of the 2022 season.
"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 said. "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."
Davis was bumped out of the No. 1 cornerback spot when Jackson arrived last year but was thrust back into that role when Jackson was injured.
If Jackson can regain his previous form and Davis plays like he did down the stretch last season, the Chargers could end up with a pair of top corners in their secondary.
That high level of play could be needed, especially with the gauntlet of quarterbacks the AFC is offering up this season.
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