The Chargers were expected to walk into Thursday night with the goal of bolstering the weakest part of the roster: cornerback. Even with the immense amount of depth of cornerbacks in this year’s draft, the Chargers did not know whether a corner to their liking would fall to them at the 25th pick. As Thursday night came and went, the Chargers wound up with more than just a cornerback, but a cornerback that best fits their defense.
I’ve been very high on Jason Verrett since the beginning of the draft process. I’ve always thought he was the purest man corner in this draft with not only off-the-charts athleticism, but also with sound fundamentals and high football I.Q. If you watch tape on Verrett, you see everything you want in a corner: quick feet, fluid hips, sideline shading, keying the quarterback for the first three steps, hand placement for shadowing, and excellent ball timing. Verrett is a good fit for one part of the Chargers defensive scheme in the 7-off/1-in, off-ball man. Though he may not have played with as much depth as the Chargers tend to, Verrett is the ideal corner for the 7/1 off/in. He’s skilled in jumping slants/hitches and rarely bites on double moves. I believe that Verrett will be very succesful in the Chargers defense if he learns to do one thing…
Zone defense. There is barely any tape of Verrett running a zone defense at all during his time in college. This is definitely an issue considering the Chargers run zone coverage about a third of the time. Zone isn’t a walk in the park to learn either. No longer do you stick with a single man, following him hip-to-hip. The problem many corners face in learning how to play zone is to shadow, not stick, a receiver. Since man corners are so used to sticking to their man, they end up following their receivers too far out of their respective zone. Another problem a corner faces is switch zoning. When a receiver is on the tail-end of exiting a different zone ad entering the corner’s zone, the corner must recognize the switch and start shading to the receiver. What happens with man corners is they get caught ‘man-watching’, where the corner has concentrated so much on the previous receiver now exiting his zone that he doesn’t realize that another receiver is about to enter. This technique is difficult for corners to transition into (See: Revis).
In the end, I am extremely happy about this pick. I have expressed concern on whether Verrett will be able to ease into the zone portion of the Chargers’ scheme, but I have full fath in not only Verrett, but our coaching staff to help speed his progress. Verrett will be able to step in right away and fit into the 7/1 scheme. The defense that struggled all season (except for whenever we played a Manning) to defend the pass, has found a piece to bolster their secndary.
To those wondering why the Chargers didn’t select Roby:
While extremely talented as a man-coverage corner, Roby is a press-play corner. He played predominantly man in his 2012 season. This season was the one that earned him a first round grade. In 2013, Roby played a lot more zone and struggled. His inconsistency in 2013 caused him to go from a top 15 pick to a late first rounder. Roby and Verrett share similar athleticism and physicality with the main difference being Verrett’s smaller height, but as far as pure cornerbacking skills go, the Chargers got the better player.