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.