If there was one position group on the Chargers whose depth got exploited this past season, it has to be the secondary. Injuries and COVID-19 did a number on secondary as a whole but it was especially a rough year for the starting cornerbacks, all of whom struggled to be on the field at the same time for any notable stretch of time.
With Chris Harris Jr. getting further and further into the wrong side of 30 and Michael Davis struggling in his first season under Brandon Staley and his man-heavy, Cover 2 scheme, the Chargers may be forced to find another impact player at the position who is ready-made for Staley’s defense.
Enter Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary.
At 6’0 and 190 pounds, McCreary offers decent size for the position coupled with phenomenal athleticism, specifically his reaction time when reading keys. Consider Exhibit A below:
Objectively hilarious play from Roger McCreary pic.twitter.com/gfhHSBfvDn— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 25, 2022
Like...what? I know we’ve all heard the phrase “he ran the route better than the receiver”, but this simply insane. Within a fraction of a second, he knew exactly what the offense was trying to do.
In the next video below, watch McCreary (top of the screen) take away every option on the right side of the field. He starts off by taking outside leverage which allows him to read both routes by the receivers. He initially steps with the short out route before realizing the other defender has him and then proceeds to turbo up the field to get into the window of the corner route. It’s almost methodical how he flows seamlessly from position to position.
Great zone match rep by Roger McCreary in the red zone. Took away all the options for Corral. pic.twitter.com/Jr0SB9A9Fa— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) January 26, 2022
During his Auburn career, McCreary racked up 135 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, a lone sack, six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and a whopping 29 passes defended. McCreary’s 14 pass breakups and two picks as a senior helped earn him First-Team All-SEC honors as a senior by both the Associated Press and the coaches.
The Draft Network’s Drae Harris currently has McCreary graded as a first-round talent. Per Harris, McCreary played his best games against the best competition, and that means against state rival Alabama.
McCreary thrives in man coverage due to his elite mirroring and agility. He’s uber-competitive at the catch point and since he’s always so close to his receiver, he innately thrives at limiting yards after the catch. There’s a little bit of safety experience in his history, as well, which is a big reason why he’s never afraid to mix it up in run support. Lastly, his wide range if skills also would allow him to play inside on certain matchups. He’s got true versatility in the secondary and it’s hard to imagine he isn’t on the radar already for Staley and his staff.