What addition of Bryce Callahan means for Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It’s never too early for Brandon Staley to start tinkering with his defense.

That includes these summer days leading up to training camp, and the Chargers’ head handyman was already in his toolbox adjusting the roles and designations of his secondary.

The first-team defense operated out of the nickel package during the 11-on-11 period during Tuesday’s minicamp session, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper. However, the setup looked a bit different from last season.

Star-studded free-agent acquisition J.C. Jackson manned one of the outside corner spots, while second year rising talent Asante Samuel Jr. was his wingman on the opposite side. Bryce Callahan, who joined the team in the offseason after a three-year stint with the Broncos, suited up as the slot defender.

That left Michael Davis, one of the team’s primary outside cornerbacks in 2021, on the sidelines while the first team practiced. Early observation would imply Davis is now the fourth cornerback on the roster and will be rotated in when needed, and that Callahan is the top candidate for slot duties.

Staley likes what he sees from Callahan so far. He praised Callahan’s quick thinking and ability to react with anticipation, as well as his vision for developments in the offense. Discussing Callahan’s fit in the nickel, Staley was thorough in his explanation of how the cornerback’s skills are a match for his system.

“He’s got a unique combination of quickness and then strength in his lower body,” Staley told the media on Tuesday. “He’s not a small guy that gets pushed around because he’s got strong lowers. But he’s also got long speed, which is rare. You have some nickels that are quick. They have quickness, but they don’t have deep speed. Bryce has quickness and deep speed, and he has good ball skills. So, you put all that together, and he’s got good toughness and he’s a good tackler, underrated blitzer, and I think if you look at his production since he’s come into the league, it’s reflective of those qualities.”

The addition of Callahan accomplishes two things. For starters, Callahan’s strengths complement Staley’s defensive philosophy and allow the defense to remain agile and explosive whenever the nickel package is required.

Secondly, Callahan playing the slot maximizes the amount of time Samuel will be on the field. While Samuel is seeing slot reps and spent time at the position as a rookie, the Chargers value his fluidity and ball skills at the outside spot more. With Callahan defending the slot receiver, Samuel can remain in coverage against the X or Y threats.

Furthermore, if Samuel adjusts well to a full-time outside corner spot, it allows other secondary playmakers like Derwin James and Nasir Adderley to make an impact elsewhere on the field.

Jackson earned his lockdown stripes during his time in New England. It’s likely the Chargers will trust him with a healthy amount of one-on-one matchups. It wouldn’t be surprising if it was in the details of his $82.5 million contract.

However, if Samuel gains the same confidence, it will give Staley more schematic freedom to cleverly craft the pass rush and further confuse offenses.