Arguably one of the greatest traits to have on an NFL field is availability, especially deeper in the season. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill detailed another key trait: versatility.
"When we came in this offseason, the whole goal was to cross-train as many guys as possible in different positions. We didn't know how it would all play out," said Renaldo Hill. "Now that you're getting through training camp, you can start seeing guys' roles a little bit. It just kind of evolved a little bit by us doing that. When we come in, it's more teaching the techniques at every position, not just a nickel dime rep or an outside corner rep, so I think that everybody is learning it or has learned it."
But "cross training" as Hill described is applicable both to the rookies and the veterans on this Chargers defense. Specifically, look at second-round pick Asante Samuel Jr., a player Hill is eyeing to be proficient in both the slot and on the outside, and vet CB Chris Harris Jr., who's going to be playing some safety.
"We are moving those guys all around," he said. "Whether that's [CB] Chris [Harris Jr.] going to the inside lane, or vice-versa. Those guys can play. They are interchangeable. That's kind of how we want it. They may line up the first weekend and see Asante outside for this first play and say, 'Hey, let's go attack,' and we can easily switch it. I think it's good for us to be able to have that flex with those guys being able to play inside and outside."
Harris Jr. will be a key component to the success of the Chargers defense this year. Hill explained that No. 25 's knack for being around the ball will benefit him when he plays safety in the defensive scheme.
"That's one thing, what he's been able to do his whole career is find the football. It's more so about the run fits. Now, he's the protector, where a lot of times, they were protecting him. So, now he's figured out that part. as well. Different alignments, things of that nature, took a little time, but I think he kind of has the feel of it now. He's firing now on all cylinders."
As Harris Jr. approaches his 11th season in the league and second in a Chargers uniform, the four-time Pro-Bowler has already taken the team's young corners, like Samuel Jr., under his wing.
"I think that he's been solid," Harris Jr. said. "He hasn't played it too much, but when he has gone in there, he hasn't had many that were total mess-ups. He's been able to go in there and do his job. He hasn't played too much in there, but he's able to go in there if I can't go … He's definitely capable of going in there and playing the slot."
Harris Jr. went on to talk about the level of feistiness that he came into the league with and how it was hard to find a player just as feisty as he was. However, he did say that Samuel Jr. has a factor that young players must have in order to have success in this league.
"It's hard to compare young Strap to [Asante Samuel Jr.] right now," he said. "You know, I was back against the wall, undrafted. He has it though; mentality-wise he has it, just like I had it as a young guy. You know, if I get beat, I'm coming back and lining up again and compete and he's not scared to compete."
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