Asante Samuel Jr.

Chargers Make J.C. Jackson Healthy Scratch

J.C. Jackson represented a central part of Brandon Staley‘s 2022 defensive overhaul, coming over from New England as one of last year’s top free agents. The ex-Patriots standout, however, has not displayed the same form with the Chargers.

Returning from a ruptured patellar tendon, Jackson has not enjoyed a full-time role to start his second Bolts season. The team has now taken the surprising step to make Jackson a healthy scratch for Week 3. The former UDFA signed a five-year, $82.5MM deal with the Chargers. That contract included $40MM fully guaranteed.

The sixth-year corner has lined up on 64% of the Chargers’ defensive plays in two games. Pro-Football-Reference’s coverage metrics, albeit in a small sample size, chart Jackson as performing better than he did in his first Bolts season. Jackson has allowed just a 46.2% completion rate as the closest defender and a 72.0 passer rating. Those numbers are well down from a disappointing 2022, when Jackson yielded a 66.7% completion rate and a ghastly 149.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus, however, ranks Jackson 85th among cornerbacks to start this season.

While Jackson did make his return from knee surgery and was not on Los Angeles’ injury report this week, Staley said recently (via The Athletic’s Daniel Popper) the well-paid corner is still ramping up to full usage. While a deactivation without an injury designation is certainly notable, it will be interesting to hear if Staley views this as a long-term move or if it relates to his recovery. The Bolts deactivating their highest-paid corner in what looms as a potential must-win game — after an 0-2 start and as the team prepares to face arguably the game’s top wideout (Justin Jefferson) — points to issues with Jackson’s performance.

The Chargers have Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. as their other top cornerback investments. Samuel, a 2021 second-round pick, has played both inside and outside for the Bolts. He won the competition to be the team’s slot cornerback in training camp, but Staley has confirmed Ja’Sir Taylor — said competition’s initial loser — will be playing there for the foreseeable future. On the outside, Staley said Davis, Samuel and Jackson will compete for playing time. With Jackson out, however, Davis and Samuel should be expected to be the Chargers’ outside CBs today.

L.A.’s secondary has struggled this season, allowing Tua Tagovailoa to go off for 466 yards in Week 1 and Ryan Tannehill to deliver a bounce-back effort — complete with 70- and 49-yard completions — in Week 2. The temperature on Staley’s seat will increase with a loss in Minnesota, and the third-year HC is shaking up his CB corps. Deane Leonard, a 2022 seventh-round pick, is the only other corner on the Bolts’ active roster.

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Raiders, Samuel

Although their interest in Dalvin Cook appeared to cool early in the long-running sweepstakes, the Broncos did keep tabs on the high-profile free agent. The team continued to look into Cook, Tom Pelissero of said during a Rich Eisen Show appearance (video link). Cook has since signed a one-year, $7MM Jets deal. While Pelissero adds the Broncos may look to add another back to a group headlined by Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, the team is sorting through some options behind the veterans. Second-year back Tyler Badie, rookie UDFA Jaleel McLaughlin and ex-Sean Payton Saints charge Tony Jones Jr. are vying for Denver’s RB3 job presently.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • The Raiders took a few fliers at cornerback in free agency, signing Duke Shelley and David Long and reuniting with Brandon Facyson. None of the trio looks likely to start. Instead, fourth-round pick Jakorian Bennett looks to have leapfrogged them. Shelley and Long have fallen out of the mix to start, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur and Tashaun Reed, who project Bennett to start alongside Marcus Peters and Nate Hobbs (subscription required). Both Long and Facyson have missed time due to injury in camp. The Raiders chose Bennett 104th overall, which would make a Week 1 starting assignment notable. But the Silver and Black, who let Rock Ya-Sin walk (to replace Peters in Baltimore), came into the offseason with major questions at corner.
  • Despite a three-interception wild-card performance, third-year Chargers corner Asante Samuel Jr. faced the prospect of being a backup to start this season. Ja’Sir Taylor, a sixth-round 2022 draftee, has competed with the multiyear starter for the slot job. But Samuel looks to have surged ahead, per The Athletic’s Daniel Popper. If J.C. Jackson completes his recovery from a torn patellar tendon in time, the Chargers are preparing to roll out a Jackson-Samuel-Michael Davis cornerback look. If Jackson needs more time, the Bolts would likely go with a Davis-Samuel-Taylor trio.
  • The Bolts are fairly set at receiver, with Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis‘ Fort Worth-to-Los Angeles treks giving the team five locks at the position. In addition to the TCU alums, Josh Palmer has made strides in his third training camp. This looked to put Jalen Guyton and John Hightower to a battle for the final spot, Popper adds. But both players are dealing with injuries. After a strong start to camp, Hightower — a 2020 Eagles draftee who has not caught a pass since his rookie year — suffered an injury and has not practiced in a week. Guyton, who suffered an ACL tear in Week 3 of last season, remains on the Bolts’ active/PUP list. Stashing the deep threat on the reserve/PUP list to start the season is looking likely, per Popper.
  • K’Waun Williams is expected to be the Broncos‘ slot corner for a second season, but an ankle injury has sidelined him for over a week. The veteran slot defender sought a second opinion on the injury recently, per 9News’ Mike Klis, who notes surgery is not on the docket at this point. A rest-and-rehab operation will be utilized to have Williams ready for Week 1, though this becomes a situation to monitor for a Broncos team that remains without third-round corner Riley Moss. Essang Bassey filled in for Williams as the top nickel in Denver’s preseason opener.
  • Davis Webb resides in the strange position of being a 28-year-old quarterbacks coach tasked with helping a decorated 34-year-old passer bounce back. But Russell Wilson‘s position coach has been on the coaching radar for a bit now, despite only retiring this year. After the Bills wanted him to be their QBs coach last year, Sean McDermott, Brian Daboll and Eli Manning endorsed Webb to Payton, Jori Epstein of notes. Webb “blew away” Broncos brass in his interview, per GM George Paton. His final season — as a Giants third-stringer — involved scouting and coaching, Epstein adds, making this an easier transition than it would appear.

DB Rumors: Elam, Panthers, Bolts, Bucs

The Bills have hoped to plug Kaiir Elam into their starting lineup opposite Tre’Davious White, but the 2022 first-rounder remains in a position battle. Elam is battling 2022 sixth-rounder Christian Benford and veteran Dane Jackson for the boundary job opposite White, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Elam played 477 defensive snaps as a rookie, but even as White did not debut until Thanksgiving, the younger Buffalo Round 1 corner only started six games. Benford started five of the nine he played, while Jackson led Bills corners with 14 first-string appearances in 2022. The Bills would clearly prefer Elam seize the role, but for now, the Washington product has not distinguished himself as a surefire starter.

Here is the latest from NFL secondaries:

  • Asante Samuel Jr. resides in a similar boat, needing to fend off a lower-profile challenger. Thus far, it appears Samuel has fallen behind Ja’Sir Taylor for the Chargers‘ slot cornerback role. As it appeared in June, Taylor looks to be the favorite to open the season as the Bolts’ slot player, Daniel Popper of The Athletic notes. Samuel’s shaky run defense has concerned the Bolts, per Popper, with Taylor — a 2022 sixth-round pick — seeing time ahead of the second-generation pro as an outside corner last year due to tackling ability. With primary 2022 slot defender Bryce Callahan unsigned, Taylor and Samuel are battling for the position. Despite Samuel’s experience (27 starts) and draft pedigree (Round 2), he may well open the season as the top backup behind a Taylor-J.C. JacksonMichael Davis trio. Having Samuel as a depth piece would certainly benefit the Chargers, with Jackson attempting to come back from a ruptured patellar tendon.
  • The Panthers have played without first-round pick Jaycee Horn for extended stretches, and the 2021 top-10 pick spent time rehabbing another injury this offseason. Horn did not say how he injured his foot this spring, but he is 100% early in Panthers camp. Ditto Donte Jackson, who missed eight games last season due to an Achilles tear. Both starting corners have received full clearance, GM Scott Fitterer said recently.
  • Although the Buccaneers have re-signed Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean in free agency over the past two years, they let Sean Murphy-Bunting leave in March. Murphy-Bunting, who had spent time in the slot in Tampa Bay, left for Tennessee. The Bucs are holding an expansive slot competition in training camp. Zyon McCollum, Dee Delaney, Josh Hayes, Christian Izien and Anthony Chesley are all vying for the gig, Todd Bowles said (via’s Brianna Dix and Scott Smith). Delaney and Chesley have both bounced around the league, while Hayes and Izien are rookies. Some of these players will not end up on the Bucs’ 53-man roster, but it is interesting to see a five-man competition for this role. A 2022 fifth-round pick who played 277 defensive snaps last year, McCollum may have the lead here. Bowles expects the second-year cover man to play a big role in the nickel spot, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

Latest On Chargers’ CB Room

The Chargers’ secondary was a relatively strong unit in 2022, but it faces questions heading into training camp. The starting configuration at the cornerback spot in particular is yet to be determined.

Ja’Sir Taylor lined up in the slot during OTAs and minicamp, as detailed by Daniel Popper of The Athletic (subscription required). That position could remain his into the start of the regular season, but the team’s situation on the boundary will change when veteran J.C. Jackson makes his return to the field. That is expected to take place in time for training camp, which could leave Taylor competing for a first-team role.

Jackson and former UDFA Michael Davis would likely operate on the perimeter, Popper writes, which would leave 2021 second-rounder Asante Samuel Jr. eyeing the starting slot spot. The latter has started all but two of his 30 regular and postseason appearances to date, recording a pair of interceptions and 11 pass breakups in each of his first two campaigns. Issues in run defense could open the door to Taylor eating into Samuel’s playing time, however.

A sixth-round selection last year, Taylor was used primarily on special teams as a rookie. His strength against the run compared to Samuel could earn him a sizable jump in playing time, though. While DBs’ performance against aerial attacks obviously plays a bigger role in how teams divvy out playing time, it would certainly be interesting if the Chargers went with Taylor and kept Samuel as a top backup.

Jackson’s patellar tendon rupture cleared out one of the two boundary roles for Samuel last season, and Pro Football Focus viewed the Florida State alum as making progress in Year 2. Samuel, however, also has slot experience. PFF graded Samuel as a top-25 cornerback last season. The advanced metrics site ranked Samuel as a top-15 cover corner, masking the run-defense issue to some degree. Samuel accomplished this while playing 1,045 defensive snaps. Davis graded as PFF’s No. 19 overall corner, putting Brandon Staley‘s unit in a good place — so long as Jackson can bounce back from a rough 2022 on the performance and injury front.

Even though the Bolts have not re-signed veteran Bryce Callahan — their primary slot defender last season — Staley figures to have options. Callahan, 32, remains a free agent. Should Jackson be ready for Week 1 as he expects, L.A. will boast one of the league’s more interesting cornerback groups. Samuel’s role, in particular, will be worth monitoring.

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Bolts, Broncos

Given a deal that was $10MM north of the previous NFL AAV record two summers ago, Patrick Mahomes has seen his $45MM-per-year pact fall to fourth. This offseason saw Aaron Rodgers surpass $50MM per year and Deshaun Watson‘s fully guaranteed $46MM-per-year pact lead to Kyler Murray signing for $46.1MM on average. Mahomes received the $45MM salary because he agreed to a 10-year extension, and the superstar Chiefs quarterback has said he is unconcerned about where is contract currently stands among QBs. But a source informed Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed the Chiefs could adjust his deal “sooner than later.” Mahomes, 26, has never been expected to play out his through-2031 contract. It will be passed many times between now and its expiration date. Lamar Jackson is almost certainly gunning for a deal north of that $45MM figure. It does not look like the Chiefs will be addressing the contract this year, but in addition to Jackson, Russell Wilson should be expected to pass Mahomes’ pact by 2023. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will also be extension-eligible in January.

A team agreeing to redo a player’s deal with so many years left on it stands to be an interesting contract chapter — one that may not be too far in the future — but Mahomes is rather important to this franchise’s prospects. Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • From one previous contractual record to a current position’s standard, the ChargersDerwin James re-up looks quite good for the player. James’ $19MM-per-year extension tops safeties in AAV; it also compares favorably to Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams‘ deals in terms of its three-year payout ($58.5MM) and fully guaranteed money ($38.6MM), OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald tweets. Given James’ injury history, the Bolts’ $42MM in total guarantees matters as well. His 2023 base salary is fully guaranteed, and $3.4MM of his 2024 base becomes fully guaranteed in March 2023, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Two 90-man roster bonuses worth $3MM are due in 2025 and ’26, respectively, though those base salaries are nonguaranteed. James will count less than $10MM against the Chargers’ cap in 2022 and 2023, but those numbers go way up by the mid-2020s: $19.9MM (2024), $23.9MM (2025), $24.6MM (2026).
  • Asante Samuel Jr.‘s path back to the Chargers’ starting lineup appears to be narrowing. While Samuel entered camp as the outside cornerback starter opposite J.C. Jackson, Michael Davis has taken over in recent days. Brandon Staley said the competition remains open, but The Athletic’s Daniel Popper notes Davis has played in front of Samuel for several days. A former UDFA the Bolts re-signed on a three-year deal worth $25.2MM in 2021, Davis appears to be distancing himself in this battle, per Popper (subscription required). Davis, 27, has been a Chargers starter for the past three years. Samuel also has slot experience, something that could come into play considering Bryce Callahan‘s injury past. The mid-offseason addition, however, has been manning the slot with the Bolts’ first unit.
  • The Broncos, who have lost starting wideout Tim Patrick for the season and likely linebacker starter Jonas Griffith for several weeks, are starting to see injuries pile up. Netane Muti, who has been battling Quinn Meinerz for the starting right guard gig, is out due to an arthroscopic knee surgery. Muti will miss between three and four weeks, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter links). This effectively walls off the third-year blocker’s path to a starting role, for the time being. The Broncos have Meinerz and Dalton Risner as their expected guard starters, though Graham Glasgow is still in the mix after returning from a season-ending 2021 setback.

Chargers Rumors: RT, Davis, Palmer

The Chargers offensive line is almost perfectly set for the regular season. They return the left-side trio of tackle Rashawn Slater, guard Matt Feiler, and center Corey Linsley, who were all very impressive in the same roles last year. They used their first-round pick this year to fill the right guard spot with rookie guard Zion Johnson out of Boston College. 

The right tackle position is currently a battle between last year’s starter Storm Norton and reserve lineman Trey Pipkins III. Norton has vastly outperformed his undrafted status, but does leave something to be desired at the position. The Chargers are really hoping, though, that Pipkins will live up to his third-round draft stock from three years ago, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic.

Pipkins spent the offseason working out with Duke Manyweather, who works with offensive lineman in Dallas. Los Angeles will hope that Pipkins will be able to make the leap and take over the starting right tackle job to fill in their ideal offensive line. If not, they will likely rely again on Norton and focus any blocking help directly to that side of the line.

Here are a few other notes on position battles the Chargers face going into the preseason, according to Popper:

  • Cornerback Michael Davis is heading into his sixth year with the Chargers. After spending his first season and a half as a rotational cornerback in the Chargers defense, Davis took hold of a starting job and didn’t relinquish it. Not until this preseason, that is. With the free agent additions of Bryce Callahan and J.C. Jackson, Davis is facing some serious competition for his starting job. As training camp begins, it appears the Chargers have been running with Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. on the first-team with Callahan coming in as the first option for nickel packages. It’s great news for the Chargers depth at cornerback, but tough for Davis who hasn’t been a backup since 2018.
  • With wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen set to return as quarterback Justin Herbert‘s top two receiving options, the question rises of who comes in as the third receiver. Los Angeles didn’t make any moves to acquire a new receiving threat this offseason, mainly due to the belief they hold that Josh Palmer will make a significant leap in his second NFL season. As a rookie, Palmer caught 33 balls (third-best for receivers on the team) for 353 yards (fourth-best for receivers on the team). The Chargers will continue to use running back Austin Ekeler‘s receiving abilities in the passing game and, after losing Jared Cook to free agency, they brought in Gerald Everett to start at tight end. But they hope to see Palmer really step up as a wide out so that they can terrorize opposing defenses with a three-headed monster of a receiving corps.

AFC West Notes: Wilson, Chargers, Chiefs

The Chargers made the biggest cornerback splash this offseason, signing ex-Patriot J.C. Jackson. While Jackson’s starting spot is known, the rest of the Bolts’ corner arrangement is not. Asante Samuel Jr. will enter training camp with the lead to be the team’s other outside starter, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic (subscription required). With Bryce Callahan signed to play in the slot, this would move Michael Davis to a bench role. Davis, who signed a three-year deal worth $25.8MM to stay in Los Angeles last year, started all 14 games he played for the 2021 Chargers. He has worked as a starter for the past three seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked both he and Samuel outside its top 80 corners last season, however. Samuel playing in the slot over Callahan, with Jackson and Davis outside, is another option for the Bolts, Popper adds. Callahan, who dealt with extensive injury problems in Denver, signed for barely the league minimum after the draft.

Shifting first to Denver, here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Although the NFL is amid its quiet period, the Broncos‘ new quarterback will host a pre-training camp of sorts ahead of the team reconvening. Russell Wilson will gather his pass catchers for a mid-July summit in San Diego, Jeremy Fowler of tweets. The Broncos have their top four wide receivers (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam back, and Melvin Gordon‘s re-signing kept the team’s 2021 backfield intact. But Denver newcomers Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett‘s presences obviously loom larger, and the 11th-year QB will take advantage of some off time to accelerate his rapport with his new teammates.
  • Shifting back to L.A., the Bolts are planning to keep Kyle Van Noy in the versatile role he held with the Patriots. The post-draft free agency addition is expected to both work as an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker, per Popper. Van Noy played both spots during the Bolts’ offseason program. The 31-year-old linebacker should be expected to be the team’s No. 3 edge rusher, behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, Popper adds. With the Pats and Dolphins over the past three years, Van Noy combined for 17.5 sacks.
  • Easton Stick‘s rookie contract expires after the 2022 season, and despite the Chargers having Chase Daniel back to be Justin Herbert‘s top backup, Popper notes the team is grooming the North Dakota State product to be Herbert’s post-Daniel QB2. Dating back to Tyrod Taylor‘s tenure, Stick, 26, has been L.A.’s third-stringer throughout his career. Carson Wentz‘s Bison successor has thrown one regular-season pass.
  • A Chiefs exec since 2017, Tim Terry is staying put with a new title. The team bumped him up to senior director of pro personnel, Aaron Wilson of tweets. Terry, 47, has been a key front office staffer for a while. Prior to coming to Kansas City, he spent eight years as the Packers’ assistant director of player personnel. The Chiefs lost one of Brett Veach‘s top lieutenants, assistant director of player personnel Ryan Poles, this offseason. Poles is now the Bears’ GM.

Chargers, Asante Samuel Jr. Agree To Deal

The Chargers have agreed to terms with second-round pick Asante Samuel Jr. (Twitter link via agent David Canter). Per the terms of his slot, the Florida State cornerback will earn just over $7MM on his four-year deal. 

The Bolts nabbed Samuel at No. 47 overall, though he was projected by many to go in the first round. Samuel’s lack of size may have hurt his stock, but he was a first-team All-ACC selection last year with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in just eight games. And, in 2019, he notched 14 passes defensed.

Now, he figures to be a key part of Brandon Staley’s first Chargers defense, especially with Casey Hayward out of the picture. Meanwhile, he’ll also learn from fellow FSU alum Derwin James.

With one down, the Chargers still have eight more draft picks to sign:

Chargers Draft FSU CB Asante Samuel Jr. At No. 47

The Chargers have added one of the biggest names left on the board with the 47th overall pick. Los Angeles drafted Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.

Most NFL fans will recognize the name at least because of Samuel’s father, who starred with the Patriots and Eagles a decade-plus ago. The younger Samuel was a legit first-round prospect, and’s Daniel Jeremiah had him going 30th overall in his final mock draft.

Samuel was a first-team All-ACC this past season, and will be an interesting piece for Brandon Staley’s inaugural defense in Los Angeles. Some scouts thought Samuel was a bit undersized, but he’s a playmaker who had three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in only eight games in 2020.

In 2019, he had 14 passes defended in 12 games. The Chargers really needed some cornerback help after letting Casey Hayward go this offseason. Samuel will now join a young secondary that has to be hyped to play for the defensive guru Staley, and it also includes fellow FSU alum Derwin James.

The elder Samuel won two Super Bowls while making three All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowls, so if he can come anywhere close to his father the Chargers will be quite happy.

Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr. To Enter NFL Draft

Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. announced that he will opt out in order to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. Samuel — the son of four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel — profiles as a potential early-round pick.

The last three years at Florida State has had its ups and downs, but I will forever cherish the memories and relationships that I have created while I was here,” Samuel said in a statement. “When I committed to Florida State, I didn’t realize how much I would grow as a football player, and better yet, as a person. I’m thankful for my family, teammates, coaches, the athletic trainers, academic staff and fans for always guiding and supporting me throughout the years.”

Samuel leaves FSU with 97 stops, four interceptions, and 29 pass breakups across three seasons. He thrived on the whole, despite a down stretch for the Seminoles and a recent coaching staff overhaul. At 5’10”, he lacks the prototypical size for the cornerback position, but the same could be said of his dad who was only an inch taller.

The 2021 NFL Draft will be held from April 29 – May 1 in Cleveland.