NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
The San Diego Chargers had many needs. The hope is they filled one of them with their first-round pick.
Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett was the Chargers' top selection in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday, as they got busy shoring up a shoddy pass defense.
"The things we wanted to add to this team were speed and playmakers and to the help the defense," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. "We think Jason is going to fit that to a 'T.'"
"He's a cover corner that is quick, fast and tough, which are qualities we look for. And he is very, very instinctive on the football field."
What Verrett isn't is big. He stands at under 5-foot-10, but that wasn't a problem when he was named All-Big 12 and the conference's co-defensive player of the year.
"Size doesn't matter to him," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "He is a physical football player and is very good in coverage."
Verrett said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he was the best cornerback in the draft.
Verrett, though, was the fourth cornerback selected. Still, the Chargers, who were at the bottom of every significant pass defense category last year, were thrilled to get him at No. 25 overall.
"When we scouted him he check off all the boxes of what he could do and what we were looking for," Telesco said.
Verrett, who got his first collegiate interception at Qualcomm Stadium when playing against San Diego State during his sophomore year, started all 11 games last year. He finished with 39 tackles, two interceptions, 14 passes defensed and a sack.
Many of those games were against taller receivers. But Telesco was adamant that Verrett measured out well against lanky pass-catchers.
"He has played in a big-time conference against a lot of really good receivers and quarterbacks and it was never an issue," Telesco said. "It's the way he plays: his leverage, his vertical jump. It really hasn't been an issue with bigger receivers."
Verrett has heard the detractors before. But it's his approach, he said, that allows him to compensate.
"It's just moving my feet and playing a lot smarter," the 178-pound Verrett said. "I played a lot of guys that were 6-2, 6-3 and I didn't really try to get my hands on them too much. But then when the ball was in the air, that was when I tried to get competitive."
The speculation is that Verrett is better suited to defend inside receivers. But he said that's not necessarily the case.
"I feel like I showed the versatility at the college level that I can play on slot or on the outside," Verrett said. "I just want to carry that over to the next level."
McCoy wouldn't pin down where Verrett will play, saying that would be determined in training camp. And the Chargers are optimistic Verrett will be ready, after undergoing an offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.
The Chargers could have been torn as well in deciding whether to draft a cornerback, nose tackle or receiver. But Verrett has been on the radar since the combine, and they weren't going to trade down -- it was an option -- with him on the board.
"With his toughness and the way he flies around -- maybe it's his hair and style -- but he looks like (ex-NFL safety) Bob Sanders," Telesco said. "That stuff is contagious."
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
Chargers' second-day selections:
Capsules by NFLDraftScout.com, comments by Frank Cooney:
--Rd. 2, 50: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 252, 4.60.
--A native of Nigeria, Attaochu saw time at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and showed great versatility. At the Senior Bowl, he looked decent rushing from a three-point stance, but seemed lost in space when he played off the line in 4-3 setup. Plays with intensity that sometimes leads him to abandon discipline. Collected 12.5 sacks in 2013 and his career total of 31.5 is a school record.
--Frankly: Can base his career on pass-rush ability alone as defensive end or OLB in the right scheme. If he manages to become more comfortable and consistent doing other things that will be a plus.
--Rd. 3, 89: Chris Watt, OG, Notre Dame, 6-3, 310, 5.50.
--Inside linebacker Donald Butler hasn't played 16 regular-season games in any of the past two seasons. To that end, he's invested in two wheels to keep his pair on the field this year. "I got a road bike," he said of an offseason acquisition. "Why not try something new? You would be surprised; it is a workout. Last year it was racquetball. I like to try new things."
--Wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who suffered a serious neck injury in last year's second game, is planning on returning next season. Floyd has been working out although there's no guarantee he'll return.
"It was good to see him and he looks good," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "He has that smile like he always does. That was a tough injury, maybe tougher than we know. Hopefully he can keep progressing and see where he stands and if he is really roll or no. But you would hate for it ending like that."
--While everyone is geeked up about the draft, free safety Eric Weddle basically shrugs his shoulders.
"It's a bonus if some rookie can come in here and play," he said. "But realistically you look at what we have right now and that is what we're riding with. For a rookie to come in and be mature enough to handle 16 games, four preseason games, plus the playoffs is a big, big jump. If we can hit on some guys, that's good for us. But we got to prepare and approach it like this is what we got."
--Following the team's nine-week offseason program that started on Tuesday, the team will holds its minicamp June 17-19.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we can get our guys healthy and flying around the possibilities are endless; I can't wait." -- Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler on the team's depth -- if healthy -- at linebacker.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Will veteran Dwight Freeney come back? Will Melvin Ingram stay healthy? Will Larry English finally be anything but a first-round bust? Without being able to answer "yes" with confidence to any of those questions, this remains a position that needs addressing.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Any defense that employs a 3-4 alignment needs an anchor in the middle. The Chargers have a huge void here that needs to be corrected. If the Chargers ever find a stud, ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes will have that much more of an impact.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--ILB Bront Bird (not tendered as ERFA) had 25 tackles in 16 games, which included two starts.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Danario Alexander is a prime target but the trouble is he is too often on a doctor's operating table. Alexander was a find in 2012, but missed last year with another knee injury. In all, he's had seven operations on his knees and there's no guarantee he will be able to go next season.
--RB Ronnie Brown is on the wrong side of 30 which means the Chargers will try to get younger and cheaper at this position. But he'll always have his long touchdown run in the playoff win over the Bengals to be remembered by. His departure seemed assured after Donald Brown was signed.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--WR Seyi Ajirotitu: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Donald Butler: Potential UFA; $51.8M/7 yrs, $11.15M SB/$12M OB 2017.
--CB Richard Marshall: UFA; $855,000/1 yr.
--G Rich Ohrnberger: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G/T Chad Rinehart: Potential UFA; $6M/2 yrs.
--S Darrell Stuckey: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--ILB Reggie Walker: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Kellen Clemens: UFA Rams; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--ILB Kavell Conner: UFA Colts; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Brandon Ghee: UFA Bengals; $1.65M/2 yrs.
--TE David Johnson: UFA Steelers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Derek Cox (released).
--WR Lavelle Hawkins: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--FB Le'Ron McClain (released).
--CB Johnny Patrick (released).
--G/C Steve Schilling: Not tendered as ERFA/Seahawks; terms unknown.
--DT Cam Thomas: UFA Steelers; $4M/2 yrs, $1M SB.
--QB Charlie Whitehurst: UFA Titans; $4.25M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$2M guaranteed.