Charger Position Groups vs AFC West: Volume 8 – Secondary
The AFC West is a mix of youth and athleticism when it comes to defensive backs. Each team has an elite, or potentially elite, player they can boast about in the secondary. Each team is also loaded with a lot of youth with no player being drafted before 2010. The Chiefs seem to be in the lead at this position group but the division is always changing with the signing of many new players over the offseason. Do the Chiefs still have the edge?
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4. Oakland Raiders
RCB – Gareon Conley
LCB – Daryl Worley
SS – Karl Joseph
FS – Lamarcus Joyner
The Raiders defensive backfield is loaded with highly praised underachievers. Gareon Conley fits this profile perfectly. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 Draft, he has played sparingly with minimal results. He had just 37 tackles last year although he made up for that lackluster stat by tacking on his first three interceptions of his young career. If he can stay healthy then he may turn into a great ball hawk for the Silver and Black.
Daryl Worley has been on three teams since being drafted in 2016. Despite his many moves, he has recorded an incredible 185 tackles along with four interceptions. He did not play well last year due to suspension and injuries. As a result, he only played in 10 games and recorded just 33 tackles.
Joseph has fought hard to stay on the field since being drafted by the Raiders in 2016. Unfortunately, that has not resulted in great statistics. His best year was his rookie year in 2016 when he recorded 60 tackles and one interception. He has just three interceptions for his career.
Lamarcus Joyner is the veteran of this group, having been drafted in 2014 after winning a national championship at Florida State. He has played his entire career with the Rams organization and has made a name for himself as a versatile player. He has recorded five sacks since entering the league. His best season was last year when he recorded a career-high 78 tackles, one sack, and one interception. The Raiders secondary will surely look to him for leadership.
3. Denver Broncos
RCB – Chris Harris Jr.
LCB – Kareem Jackson
SS – Will Parks
FS – Justin Simmons
Despite a weak secondary, the Broncos still have some holdovers from their Super Bowl team in 2015. Chris Harris Jr. is one of those players. He has been a force for the Broncos secondary and has been invited to four Pro Bowls, including 2018. His best season was 2013 when he recorded a career-high 65 tackles and three interceptions.
Jackson hasn’t won much in the NFL but he did win a national championship with Alabama in 2009. He has played his entire career in Houston and is looking to contribute during his first year in Denver. Since being drafted in 2010 he has recorded 559 tackles and 16 interceptions.
Will Parks has not done much for the Broncos since being drafted in 2016. He only has three interceptions with limited starts for his career. His best season was 2017 when he finally started a game and recorded a career-high 51 tackles.
Justin Simmons is another member of the 2016 Draft Class. He has had more opportunities than Parks and has benefited more from them. His best season was last year when he recorded a career-best 97 tackles and three interceptions. If the Broncos are going to have a strong secondary, it will be built on the backs of their 2016 Draft Class.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
RCB – Bashaud Breeland
LCB – Kendall Fuller
SS – Tyrann Mathieu
FS – Juan Thornhill
Bashaud Breeland has had moments of excellence while in the NFL. His best season was 2015 while he was with the Washington Redskins when he recorded a career-high 81 tackles and two interceptions. He had just 20 tackles in an injury-marred 2018 while he languished in Green Bay.
Fuller has been a star in the NFL since he was drafted. His best season was last year, his first in Kansas City when he recorded a career-best 82 tackles and two interceptions. While he has not yet been invited to the Pro Bowl, it is clear his time is coming as he has played better every year of his young career.
Tyrann Mathieu is one of the most talented safeties in the NFL. He has been invited to one Pro Bowl but has recorded 397 tackles, seven sacks, and 13 interceptions. He recorded 89 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions last year.
Thornhill was drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Virginia. He was named first-team All-ACC last year. He had 208 tackles, 13 interceptions, and 1.5 sacks over four years at Virginia.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
RCB – Desmond King
LCB – Casey Hayward
SS – Derwin James
FS – Jaylen Watkins
Desmond King has been a playmaker since being drafted in 2017. In two seasons, he has recorded 138 tackles, four sacks, and four interceptions. He was outstanding in college too and earned both the Jim Thorpe Award and the Jack Tatum Trophy in 2015. Both awards are given to the nation’s top collegiate defensive back. Last season he recorded 62 tackles, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and one touchdown. As a result of these impressive statistics, he was named first-team All-Pro but was not invited to the Pro Bowl.
Hayward spent half his career in Green Bay and was signed by the Chargers in 2016. His best season was his first with the Chargers when he recorded 58 tackles and seven interceptions. He was invited to Pro Bowls following the 2016 and 2017 seasons
Derwin James made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign last year. In that year he recorded 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three interceptions. He was rewarded for his efforts with an invitation to the Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro. The future is bright for this young player.
Jaylen Watkins has been around the NFL since being drafted in 2014. From Philadelphia to Buffalo, back to Philadelphia and resting in Los Angeles he has never given up despite recording just 56 tackles in his career. He won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia and is searching for another ring in Los Angeles.
A vast majority of the AFC West’s secondary are young and have yet to permanently crack the starting lineup. However, despite their youth they are a hungry bunch who crave the star power the game’s top defensive backs command. This young, hungry group is led by some esteemed veterans and play makers who routinely make a difference in a game. These players include Derwin James, Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Harris. The AFC West is dominated with great quarterback play and it is the efforts of the secondary which even the playing field.
The Chargers have a slight lead in the division because they have a better blend of youth and athleticism. The play of Derwin James alone highlights the potential of the Chief’s secondary. Desmond King is entering the prime of his career and it is obvious he will be invited to numerous Pro Bowls over the next decade.
Of course, a major ingredient to a great secondary is a dominant pass rush. Kansas City just lost their two best pass rushers and the future is uncertain for them in that area. The Chargers on the other hand still have a superb pass rush. It is due to this fact, combined with the play of King and James that the Chargers appear to have the most dominant secondary in the AFC West.
To sum up this ranking, the AFC West was full of change this offseason. From the departures of Dee Ford and Justin Houston to the addition of the Honey Badger, teams became weaker and teams became stronger. Perhaps the Chiefs will shock the world and have a dominant pass rush. Perhaps Derwin James’ rookie season was the highlight of his career. The future is never certain but one thing is for sure, the football will be thrown and it will either end up in the hands of a receiver or it will not.