COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Chargers secondary has been the talk of training camp, and on Wednesday, they made the difference; one player, in particular, was cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.
As the offensive emphasis was two-minute drills and playing inside the 20-yard line.
Toward the end of practice, quarterback Justin Herbert hit Joshua Palmer and Keenan Allen to put them in the red zone. Herbert decided to go to rookie receiver Quentin Johnston when Samuel Jr. knocked down the pass.
Then Herbert went to Johnston again with the same result; Samuel Jr. came between the quarterback and the receiver.
“I’m just trying to get better and make plays for this team,” Samuel Jr. said.
It has been an interesting offseason for Samuel Jr. since intercepting Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence three times before halftime.
There have been questions about where Samuel fits in the defense. There is a returning J.C. Jackson, Michael Davis, and Ja’Sir Taylor, so it is crowded.
That is why head coach Brandon Staley and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley have tried him at inside and outside cornerback.
“They want me to learn both of the positions because you never know how the season goes,” Samuel Jr. explained. “Wherever the coaches want me to play, that’s where I’ll play.”
So, for Samuel Jr., what is the biggest difference between playing inside and outside?
“It’s kind of the same,” he said. “It’s just different techniques and learning different calls; they’re kind of different inside. You have to just adjust to the calls.”
There is no shortage of talent for him to face during camp. He, along with the secondary, face a big body in Mike Williams, a top premier route runner in Keenan Allen, a combo of Williams/Allen in Josh Palmer, and the quickness of Johnston.
“Each of them has their own specific traits that they have,” Samuel Jr. said. “Going against them in practice helps you kind of defend every receiver in the NFL because you get to go against whatever you need.”
Making plays is something that Samuel Jr. has been used to since he was drafted in 2021. He has had some great plays, like week one against the Raiders last season when he left his man to track Davonte Adams and made a tremendous interception.
He has also given up some plays, but it seems like he is learning from his mistakes. This training camp is going to be very important for his continued development.
“Going into this training camp, we’ve been able to see the versatility that we know that he has, but because of our depth and quality, we feel like we can put him in there more,” Staley said. “He’s really improved inside because it’s a position that’s difficult to master, especially the way we play.”
The Chargers cornerback made numerous plays to end practice on Wednesday, forcing the offense to do push-ups. The defense keeps making plays during camp, almost matching the offense.
“Everybody is running to the ball,” Samuel Jr. said. “Everybody is buying into our culture that we’re trying to bring to the team. Everybody just loves being around each other.”
Nuts N’ Bolts
- Cameron Dicker went 8-for-8 in field goals on Wednesday with his long being a 52-yarder.