Back in 2008, that was already 5 drafts ago, Antoine Cason was selected by the Chargers as the 27th pick in the draft. At the time San Diego already had two established cornerbacks in Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie, but selected the Arizona Wildcat defensive standout anyway. It was a surprise pick because it didn't appear to be a major need, but the Chargers brass must have figured that they didn't want to pay Cromartie past his current contract or thought that Jammer might not hold up in his 30s. It was also a surprise since Cason wasn't believe to be one of the next players to go. It wasn't a massive reach, but it certainly didn't appear to be a value pick. However, to the young defensive back's credit, he was first team All America and did win the Jim Thorpe award as the nation's best college defensive back after being a semi-finalist the year before. He had some speed and had some great highlights from interception and kick returns.
In the NFL, he started on the bench in 2008 but was active for all 16 games and played on special teams. In 2009, he made a bigger contribution, picking off passes in the first two games of the season, but made his way back to the bench when Steve Gregory was promoted to nickel cornerback midseason. In 2010, he got his first consistent starting experience after Antonio Cromartie was traded to the Jets. There wasn't much competition for the spot and he was basically anointed the starter from the moment that trade went down. It was a quiet season for the first year starter with a handful of interceptions and no accolades.
Last year was an interesting one for Cason. There were some increased expectations of him now that he was an experienced starter, a 3 year veteran and more than halfway through his rookie contract. The team had also spent a 2nd (Marcus Gilchrist) and a 3rd (Shareece Wright) round pick on the cornerback position in the 2011 draft. The rookies weren't capable yet of challenging his starting spot in the offseason, so he began the year once again opposite Quentin Jammer as a starting cornerback. However, in a week 6 game against the Jets he got repeatedly burned by a tall, but aging and supposedly rusty Plaxico Burress multiple times for touchdowns. That led to another benching and Gilchrist took over as starter the next week. Gilchrist wasn't ready for prime time so Cason eventually got his job back, but eyebrows were raised by the whole situation. Is there reason to be worried about Cason's effectiveness? Or was it just a bad game by him and a bad decision by now fired Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky? Those are questions to ponder as you vote to approve or disapprove of Cason as a Chargers CB.
#20 / Cornerback / San Diego Chargers
Jul 09, 1986