At his media availability, Brandon Staley talked extensively about some of the Chargers’ plans in the secondary. First on the docket was the status of J.C. Jackson. He was left off the teams’ Wednesday injury report and is officially on track to play Sunday. Jackson said he’s not putting “any limit” on his knee when speaking in the locker room. Staley wasn’t quite as adamant when asked if there would be limitations on Jackson’s performance.
It’s to be determined. He has practiced well. We’ll see how it goes in the game.
On what he needs to see from Jackson, Staley said this:
Just seeing him through a game. We’ve seen him in practice, now we get to see him in a game. We’re excited. He has practiced well. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m not sure Jackson will be on a snap count per se, but the Chargers will likely approach the situation conservatively. Jackson never quite got his feet under him last season after he returned from ankle surgery in Week 2 against the Chiefs. The last thing Staley or the team would want to do is overwork Jackson as he continues his rehab process. Jackson did take occasional practices off during camp to manage his knee recovery.
Staley’s cautious optimism ties directly into his vision for cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. on Sunday. On his projected slot role, Staley said:
It’s fair to say that Asante will be there sometimes, but we’re going to play a lot of guys there. You’re going to see Asante outside, too. He had a really, really good training camp. I’m excited to see him play.
If the Chargers want to load manage Jackson’s snaps here and there, shifting Samuel outside is the easiest way to go about it. If he’s needed outside occasionally, Ja’Sir Taylor and Derwin James can also play the STAR role in the slot. It also fits into Staley’s training camp vision for Samuel. The goal was to cross-train him inside and out, but the team wants to maintain its versatility. While he will play a healthy amount at slot corner, Samuel will not be pigeonholed into that role alone.
Staley followed up his thoughts with some praise for Samuel:
Since he has been here, one of Asante’s top qualities is his toughness. He is physically tough, mentally tough. He is a competitor. He has improved each year as a player here, in all always. He has had an outstanding training camp. I think he’s been able to showcase, inside, that he has top Star ability in there. We’re expecting a big year from him.
When asked whether Derwin James factors into a STAR rotation by The Athletic’s Daniel Popper, Staley didn’t deny that he could be in that mix with Samuel and Taylor on occasion.
How Staley’s defense weaves together its secondary pieces in Week 1 against Miami will be pivotal. Michael Davis will likely get a rematch in most 1 on 1 situations vs. Tyreek Hill, but the rest of the secondary design is a little less clear. How much will James be used as the Swiss Army knife? How many snaps will the coaching staff let Jackson play? And finally, how often will Samuel diversify between the slot and the outside? Staley indicates that everything is on the table and “to be determined” for Sunday.