The San Diego Chargers’ secondary will look completely different next season. The team said goodbye to both starting cornerbacks from last season, Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, and though they signed Derek Cox in free agency, they still need depth and competition at the cornerback position.
The Bolts like the potential of third-year cornerbacks Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright, but neither were able to unseat the struggling Jammer or Cason despite their poor play over the past two seasons. If the season were to begin today, Gilchrist or Wright would start across from Cox, who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. No one would be confident in that group. The Chargers will likely need to address the position at some point in this week’s NFL Draft.
Xavier Rhodes of Florida State would be a solid addition in the first round. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Rhodes is a big, physical cornerback who thrives in press coverage and matches up well with big receivers. He isn’t afraid of contact and uses this strength and aggressiveness to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing of routes. He is willing to help against the run and has the speed to hang with receivers, burst to undercut routes and leaping ability to play the ball in the air. With the high demand of press cover corners in today’s pass-happy NFL, Rhodes will definitely hear his name early in the first round. He has the potential and skill-set to turn into a true shutdown corner.
His greatest strength also happens to be one of his weaknesses. At times, he plays too aggressive, which will draw flags in the NFL. While he flourishes in press coverage, he needs to improve in off-man coverage against faster receivers, and he is a bit inconsistent in run support and in his tackling technique. He also comes with some durability concerns.
However, there’s no question that Rhodes would immediately upgrade the Chargers’ secondary. His presence would allow Eric Weddle to freely roam around more often to make plays. Solid cornerback play would also help the pass rush get home more often as opposing quarterbacks will hold the ball longer.
Despite poor cornerback play last season, San Diego’s defense played pretty well under first-year defensive coordinator John Pagano. With Rhodes, Cox and continued improvements to Gilchrist and Wright, the Chargers’ defense could get even better.