Though Dwight Freeney was the biggest name signing for the San Diego Chargers this offseason, an even better free agent acquisition for the Bolts was cornerback Derek Cox. After two straight seasons of poor cornerback play, the Bolts opted not to bring back struggling starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. A veteran cornerback was needed, and Cox is one of the best in the business.
Playing in a small market like Jacksonville, Cox’s impressive play through this four-year career largely went unnoticed. However, digging deeper into the stats, few players are as good as him. Last season, Cox intercepted four passes in 12 games while allowing just one touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks had a 69.0 QB rating throwing his way, ranking 11th best in the league. In 2011, he was even better, allowing a QB rating of 44.5 – best in the league at his position – before a knee injury ended his season after just six games.
At 6-foot-1, Cox is a big, physical corner who plays both man-to-man and zone coverage well. He is excellent at the line of scrimmage, disrupting receivers in press coverage and has good recovery speed if a receiver ever gets separation. He also has great ball skills, intercepting 12 passes in 48 career games.
His problem though has been his inability to stay healthy. He has missed 14 games over the past two seasons and hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year. With little experience on the depth chart behind him, the Bolts are counting on Cox to stay healthy.
In OTAs and minicamp, Cox has picked up where he left off in Jacksonville and has been impressive so far. A good cornerback like Cox will be able to man one side of the field and won’t need as much safety help. This will allow Eric Weddle to roam more freely and shift to Shareece Wright’s side more often to help in the inexperienced cornerback. If Cox is able to stay healthy, his presence will improve the entire secondary.