The Los Angeles Chargers possess one of the best all around rosters in the NFL, especially on defense. The team has arguably the best pass rushing duo in the league in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, as well as one of the better cornerback groups you’ll find.
These two position groups are the reason many expect the Bolts to dawn one of the league’s best defenses in 2018. Even with these high expectations, there are several big question marks that remain on that side of the ball.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley addressed one of the more glaring holes on the defense today, per ESPN’s Eric Williams.
Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said the free safety job remains up for grabs right now. Several players have received time at that spot with the starters, including Rayshawn Jenkins, Jahleel Addae, Desmond King and Jaylen Watkins. The defense was beat deep a...— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 3, 2018
Bradley stated that the team has yet to decide on a starting free safety, despite there being several players vying for the job. After electing not to resign Tre Boston in the offseason, free safety immediately became a hole on the roster that needed to be addressed in training camp.
For a time, it appeared that perhaps this year’s first round pick, Derwin James, would be the team’s answer to the departure of Boston. This doesn’t appear to be the case. According to Eric Williams, James has been getting snaps at strong safety and dime linebacker.
SS/dime LB— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 3, 2018
If this indeed ends up being the case and James is not competing for the starting free safety job, then that leaves Jahleel Addae, Desmond King, Rayshawn Jenkins and Jaylen Watkins as potential starters.
Addae was the starting strong safety last season, but seems to be potentially making the move to free safety with the arrival of James. Addae winning the job would be concerning, to say the least. He does not possess the top end speed needed to play free safety in a single high safety scheme. Playing him there could end up being disastrous.
Desmond King at safety is a more appealing proposition. Coming into the 2017 NFL Draft, many expected King to be a safety in the NFL. This of course is not what ended up happening, as he found himself in the role of nickel cornerback for the team last season. King is certainly a better fit at free safety than Addae, but that doesn’t mean he should win the job either. King was one of the better slot corners in the league last season, so it doesn’t seem wise to move him from that spot— especially after losing Jason Verrett for the season.
Rayshawn Jenkins is more of an unknown that the aforementioned players. Jenkins was a fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft that didn’t earn himself very much playing time last season. With the job being so wide open, now is the perfect time for Jenkins to earn himself a job with his play throughout the rest of preseason and training camp.
Jaylen Watkins joined the team during this offseason, via free agency. Spending last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Watkins is now looking to establish a fit for himself in Los Angeles. As of now it seems unlikely that he wins the job, but he is certainly an interesting name in the competition.
There is no clear answer to who will solve the team’s free safety issue, but there are several viable options. The team is in a great position with their secondary, now only time will tell who is the final piece to it.