The San Diego Chargers are starting fresh at the cornerback position with both starters from last season gone. Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason struggled the last two years so it’s fitting that the new regime decided not to bring either back this offseason. Though the change gives a hope that things will improve, the Chargers now have plenty of question marks at the position as they will be relying on young, inexperienced players at one of football’s most important positions.
The Chargers filled one starting spot this offseason by signing veteran Derek Cox, who played four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cox, who has collected 12 interceptions in 48 career games, is one of the best cornerbacks in the league when healthy. However, he has missed 14 games over the past two seasons. If he goes down with an injury, the Bolts will be incredibly thin at the position.
With Marcus Gilchrist making the move from cornerback to strong safety in OTAs, the Chargers will have one less corner to compete for a spot. Now, the other starting job will likely be handed to third-year corner Shareece Wright. Wright, who had a solid 2012 preseason, actually beat out Gilchrist for the slot corner position last year before an injury allowed Gilchrist to take over and retain the spot. Wright hasn’t played much, only appearing in 17 games and starting none, but has all the tools to be successful. However, if he struggles, there isn’t a whole lot of depth behind him.
In the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft, San Diego took cornerback Steve Williams, likely viewing him as the team’s slot corner. At 5-9, 181 pounds, Williams may be restricted to that position and may not even fit on the outside due to his size, but has the speed to shadow shifty slot receivers.
Back in February, the Chargers claimed third-year cornerback Johnny Patrick off waivers, who was cut by the New Orleans Saints. Patrick has been terrible in the NFL so far and isn’t ready to be a starter just yet. However, General Manager Tom Telesco must have seen something in the 24-year-old to give him a chance and will likely find a use for them as a fourth corner.
The Chargers likely have their top three guys set in stone with Patrick and the undrafted rookies fighting for roster spots. However, an injury to Cox or Wright could ruin everything with no one else available to realistically step up. The Chargers may have the flexibility to move Gilchrist back to corner if needed (while weakening the safety position), but will still have question marks regardless.
Cornerback is not a strong position for the Bolts heading into 2013. However, they have a chance to be pretty good if they stay healthy and develop the way the team hopes they do.