You don’t lose three starters in your secondary without having some questions about your defensive backfield. That’s where the San Diego Chargers are at right now and are scrambling to figure out. Who starts at cornerback and who starts at safety?
Obviously, Eric Weddle and Derek Cox will be starters. However, the strong safety position is a huge mystery with only an injured Brandon Taylor as a viable option. Taylor tore his ACL late in the year last season and will likely miss all of training camp and the beginning of the season. Though Taylor could be the team’s future starting strong safety, there’s no way he’ll be ready in 2013.
Meanwhile, third-year cornerbacks Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright could battle it out at cornerback to start opposite Cox. Both have bright futures, but for the loser, he could be the odd man out. Fifth-round rookie Steve Williams was brought in specifically to man the slot at some point, and if he impresses in training camp, he could lock down the nickel corner position. Not everyone is suited to cover guys in the slot, which requires different techniques and abilities than covering guys out wide. Gilchrist actually struggled at times in the slot last season and is probably better suited outside.
Or Gilchrist could just move to safety, which would change everything.
Gilchrist took some snaps at safety during the team’s voluntary workouts this offseason. He played both cornerback and safety at Clemson, and his versatility was a big reason the Chargers made him a second-round pick in 2011.
Even at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, Gilchrist wouldn’t need to add bulk to make the switch to safety. His 26 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine when entering the NFL should tell you a little about his overall strength.
A switch to safety could actually benefit him greatly. Gilchrist hasn’t exactly set the world on fire at cornerback in his first two years. Wright actually beat him for the nickel position in preseason last year before an injury forced Gilchrist to take over.
If Gilchrist does permanently switch, it would pretty much answer the questions regarding who starts where. However, the arising questions would be if the Chargers can afford to move him when they don’t have much depth at corner, and what is Brandon Taylor’s role when he gets healthy?
Whatever the decision may be, San Diego needs to find a way to put the best combination of defensive backs on the field at a time. It’s been a while since the Chargers’ secondary has been considered strength. Let’s hope they figure it out for good this time.