This offseason, the San Diego Chargers saw many changes, particularly in their secondary. Eric Weddle remains the only constant while pretty much everything has changed around him. Whether that fixes a leaky pass defense remains to be seen, but the Bolts have to be pretty optimistic with some great young talent at safety.
Heading into his seventh year, Weddle picked up right where he left off and was sharp in OTAs and minicamp. More than ever, the Pro Bowl free safety will need to be a leader for a young secondary and has done just that so far. Arguably the Chargers’ best player, Weddle will make the entire secondary better, even if there’s still uncertainty as to who will play next to him.
The Chargers have been looking for stability at strong safety for years and still don’t seem to have it figured out quite yet. Like every year, the Bolts will be breaking in a new starting strong safety to begin the season. With last season’s starter Atari Bigby gone and supposed future starter Brandon Taylor still recovering from a late-season torn ACL, the frontrunner to start next to Weddle right now is Marcus Gilchrist.
After two seasons at nickel corner, Gilchrist is making the shift to strong safety this offseason. At Clemson, he played both safety and cornerback effectively and may be used at both positions this upcoming season. Where he plays could be determined by how fast Taylor can return to the field, as well as the health of cornerbacks Derek Cox and Shareece Wright, who both have a history of injuries. His versatility, considering the lack of depth in the secondary, will definitely help Gilchrist see a lot of playing time this season and help the Bolts better deal with injuries when they occur.
Meanwhile, Taylor’s recovery is ahead of schedule, and there’s still hope that he can be ready for training camp. His knee won’t be 100% and he will need to play catch up in the race for the starting spot, but Taylor’s solid contributions in minimal playing time last season along with his great work ethic should keep him in the mix. Don’t rule him out as the Week 1 starter at strong safety.
Taylor’s uncertain return also opens up the door for Darrell Stuckey to see some time on the field on defense. The fourth-year safety has become a great special teams player for the Bolts, but has barely seen any playing time on defense. He should get some opportunities to compete for the strong safety spot, but look for him to primarily be a special teams ace and backup to Weddle.
Another name to remember is Jahleel Addae, who’s trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie. He was solid in OTAs and minicamp, and though he won’t be competing for a starting spot just yet, but he could make the team if the Bolts decide to keep five safeties. He’ll first need to show his worth on special teams.
Like many positions for the Bolts, the safety position doesn’t have a lot of proven talent (aside from Weddle), but there is plenty of young potential who could develop nicely for them. There are plenty of candidates who could become Weddle’s partner in crime, and hopefully one of them sticks out well enough to finally end the revolving door at strong safety.