Craig Mager is like a cockroach that just won’t die. You can bench him, banish him to the practice squad, even give his job to an undrafted free agent, and he just won’t go away. And, to the dismay of many, it seems Mager is poised to last at least another season with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Yes, you read that right. With two weeks remaining in the preseason, and the week three “dress rehearsal” looming this weekend, the team continues to give every indication that Craig Mager has a virtual vice grip on what figures to be the fifth and final spot on the cornerback depth chart.
As excited as the fans were about undrafted free agents Brandon Facyson and Tony Brown entering camp, the coaches have been even more excited about the perceived new-and-improved Craig Mager. They have repeatedly praised him for the way he handled his demotion to the practice squad in 2017, and Ron Milus, Gus Bradley and Philip Rivers have all praised his improved attitude and technique. You might say they’ve been effusive in their praise.
They’re all but telling us he’s going to make the cut, folks.
And, while I don’t remember Mager so much as being targeted in either preseason game, that probably only helps his case. I mean, as bad as he’s been in the past; it’s hard for him to do anything to hurt his cause if teams don’t challenge him. This is particularly true if the coaching staff is actively looking for a reason to carry him.
What’s more, if the preseason rotations in the defensive backfield are any indication, Facyson and Brown aren’t really even nipping at Mager’s heels for that fifth spot on the depth chart, either.
It looks to me like Jeff Richards, who spent all of last season on the Chargers practice squad, is currently the sixth corner on the depth chart, and might also be the only player with a chance to unseat Mager. Richards has played every snap with the second team through two preseason games and hasn’t really done anything to help or hurt himself.
Granted, Brandon Facyson played opposite Richards in Arizona, and had a pretty good game in doing so, but he was promptly shuttled back to the third team when Hayward returned against Seattle. While Tony Brown has functioned as Des King’s primary backup at slot corner in both games, I’m just not sure he’s done enough on defense or on special teams to overcome the deep ball he yielded against the Cardinals.
What does all this mean? Well, for starters, barring a major change in the pecking order, it almost certainly means Craig Mager is going to be the fifth corner when the Los Angeles Chargers break camp at the end of August. But for all you Facyson and Brown fans, it likely also means they’re competing with Jeff Richards for what figures to be no more than two practice squad spots. Right now my money is on Richards and Facyson nabbing those spots.
So, don’t be surprised if Craig Mager makes this team and, while we’re at it...please don’t shoot the messenger.