J.C. Jackson

AFC East Rumors: Lazard, Carter, Jackson, Montgomery

The Jets lost to the Dolphins today in Tim Boyle‘s first start since 2021, and while Boyle failed to provide the offensive spark the team has been searching so desperately for, his arsenal of weapons hardly set him up for success. Part of that was the absence of veteran wide receiver Allen Lazard, who, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, was a healthy scratch from today’s game.

Florio relays that Lazard reportedly believes that it is “a one-game thing,” but after only being target once last week, Florio isn’t quite as sure. The report claims that, despite his existing history with injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, “the internal assessment of Lazard is far from flattering.”

Still, without him, Garrett Wilson saw 10 targets. Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson were the only other wide receivers to see targets, while the rest of Boyle’s attempts targeted tight ends and running backs. With Randall Cobb already out for the past four games, New York can hardly afford more missed time from Lazard, as well.

Here are a few other rumors from the AFC East, with another coming from Gang Green:

  • New York waived a former starter in running back Michael Carter a couple weeks ago. The young rusher had been benched after getting penalized for a chop block and had been buried on the depth chart behind Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. The hope was that rookie fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda would be able to step into the third-down role and provide a spark with his speed, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, but in today’s loss, Abanikanda didn’t register a touch. Hall instead took over the passing downs role, registering nine targets as the Jets were in catch-up mode for most of the contest.
  • A new update on the drama with Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson comes straight from Jackson himself, through Mark Daniels of Mass Live. After reports that Jackson failed to show up to the team hotel the night before their game with the Commanders and then subsequently was kept home during the team’s trip to Germany, Jackson explained the situation. Jackson tole Daniels that he had “missed multiple ‘bed checks'” on the night before the Washington game. He was told to stay home from Germany as a punishment, which he claims to have accepted, learned from, and apologized for. In fact, Jackson claims to now be even more appreciative of head coach Bill Belichick, as a result.
  • We saw New England pick up running back JaMycal Hasty off waivers a couple weeks ago, and with that addition, Mike Reiss of ESPN thinks veteran dual-threat back Ty Montgomery‘s job could be in danger. Hasty has a very similar skill set to Montgomery’s and is three years his junior. Montgomery, on the other hand, spent nearly all of last year on the team’s injured reserve and has seen his offensive contributions dwindle in 2023. Reiss could be right in thinking that Hasty has been brought in to replace Montgomery in the Patriots’ running backs room.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Patriots, Eichenberg

Buffalo-Kansas City has been one of the 2020s’ defining NFL rivalries. The AFC squads have played five times this decade, twice in the playoffs, with the Chiefs’ two postseason wins playing a role in the Bills‘ roster construction. The AFC powers’ plans intersected during the 2022 first round as well. When the Chiefs moved up from No. 29 to No. 21 in the ’22 first round, they took the player the Bills eyed. The Bills sought Trent McDuffie with their top pick last year, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, but the Chiefs were able to make a deal with the Patriots to move in front of Buffalo.

The fallout from this miss became costly for the Bills, whose subsequent trade-up — from No. 25 to No. 23 — produced Kaiir Elam, who has been unable to earn steady playing time. As Elam has vacillated between backup or emergency starter and healthy scratch, McDuffie has progressed in Kansas City. Pro Football Focus rates McDuffie eighth overall among corners; the Washington product has been a central part of the Chiefs’ defensive improvement this season.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Patriots opted not to sell at the trade deadline, keeping the door open for longer-term futures with some of their contract-year players. New England held onto Josh Uche, Michael Onwenu and Kyle Dugger despite interest coming in before the deadline. Dugger has become a player teams are monitoring ahead of free agency, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler noting some teams view the Division II alum as the 2024 UFA class’ second-best safety — behind the Buccaneers’ Antoine Winfield Jr. This year’s safety market producing only one contract north of $8MM per year (Jessie Bates‘ outlier $16MM-AAV accord) could impact Dugger, but it is clear the former second-round pick will be costly for the Pats to retain.
  • Benched in Week 9 and left in the States ahead of the Patriots’ Week 10 Germany trip, J.C. Jackson was initially believed to have arrived late at the team hotel the night before the Pats-Commanders game. But the recently reacquired corner did not show up at all that night, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss notes. Jack Jones missed curfew as well, but Reiss adds the since-waived corner did surface later. Both players were benched for Week 9, and despite Jackson’s unavailability, the Patriots further limited Jones against the Colts. Jackson is expected to remain with the Pats, but the ballhawk has not escaped the rough patch that began last year in Los Angeles.
  • Trent Brown did not make the trip to Frankfurt for personal reasons, and Reiss adds the veteran tackle’s missed game will affect his recently reworked contract. Including $88K per game in roster bonuses, the Patriots set playing-time thresholds for additional Brown escalators as well. The starting LT would collect $1MM for playing 75% of the team’s offensive snaps this season. Hovering at 75% after Week 9, Brown has now missed two games. The low end of this incentive structure is 65%, which Reiss notes will pay out $750K. He would receive another $750K by hitting the 70% snap barrier.
  • Dolphins contract-year guard Robert Hunt will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury. As a result, Liam Eichenberg will complete a rare NFL feat. The 2021 second-round pick began the week practicing at left guard, his primary 2022 position, but the swingman moved to right guard midway through practice this week, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes. The Dolphins view Eichenberg as more comfortable there. Once Eichenberg replaces Hunt on Sunday, he will have started at all five O-line positions as a pro. While the converted tackle could not retain his LG job to start this season, having accomplished this O-line tour of sorts in his third season is certainly noteworthy. Lester Cotton will start at left guard for the Dolphins, who are uncertain to have LG first-stringer Isaiah Wynn back this season.

CB J.C. Jackson Will Not Travel To Germany With Patriots

NOVEMBER 10: Belichick said Friday he expects the sixth-year cornerback to return after the Patriots’ bye week. While expectedly evading a question about why Jackson stayed in the States for this international game, Belichick said (via Rapoport) Jackson will likely be back with the team in Week 12.

NOVEMBER 8: J.C. Jackson has run into another hurdle on his path to playing time this season. After Jackson was a healthy scratch with the Chargers earlier this year, the Patriots temporarily benched their low-end trade acquisition in Week 9. While Jackson ended up playing Sunday, questions about his status now loom.

The Patriots are set to travel to Germany without Jackson this week, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, who add unreliability is behind the team’s plans to play its overseas game without the recently reacquired cornerback. The Patriots will face the Colts in Week 10 but will do so without another player who has been a starting corner. The team hopes this layoff, which will feature a Week 11 bye, will help in an effort to bring Jackson back into the fold.

New England is already down Marcus Jones and Christian Gonzalez for the season, and the team has used Jackson as a starter. In five games back with the Patriots, Jackson has started three. The soon-to-be 28-year-old defender worked as a backup days after the trade back to New England and against Washington in Week 9, with the team benching both he and Jack Jones to start the game. Both entered later, with Jackson debuting on New England’s third defensive series. But an issue has emerged here.

It took until the second quarter for Jones to play against the Commanders, and the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed notes Bill Belichick mentioned consistency in connection with the corners’ early-game absences. Though, as expected, the 24th-year coach did not delve into this matter deeply. Earlier this week, Belichick praised Jackson’s effort to re-acclimate — on the conditioning end, at least — after spending multiple seasons in Los Angeles.

Well, it’s been a transition. I think his off-field training and physical health and conditioning — conditional has definitely improved,” Belichick said of Jackson. “So, he’s done a good job working at that. Just the consistency in the secondary from everybody is something we need to do a better job of.”

This consistency may also bleed into off-field matters. Jackson being late to the team hotel Saturday contributed to his benching, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes. Jackson missed curfew before the Commanders game, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, who adds the Patriots told the veteran cover man to stay home today. Attitude concerns and performance-related matters are at play here as well, with Howe noting the team had planned to bench Jackson for the Washington game as well (Twitter links).

Off-field matters have limited Jackson at various points during his career. An arrest while at Florida led him off the SEC team’s roster and into the JUCO ranks, before a resurgence at Maryland. Still, Jackson went undrafted in 2018 in part because of off-field issues. Earlier this year, an arrest warrant emerged in connection with a criminal speeding charge from 2021. He was also arrested for what was labeled a “nonviolent family issue” in 2022.

On the field, Jackson has been one of the NFL’s top ballhawks in recent years. He has 26 career interceptions and worked as a regular for higher-profile Patriots teams, playing a role on New England’s 2018 Super Bowl-winning squad and on a No. 1-ranked defense in 2019. Jackson’s rookie-contract work led to a five-year, $82.5MM deal from the Chargers in 2022. But Jackson struggled before suffering a ruptured patellar tendon midway through last season. During what was believed to be his ramp-up period, the Bolts made the sixth-year corner a healthy scratch for a Week 3 matchup against the Vikings. They soon traded him back to the Patriots in a swap of late-round 2025 picks.

Pro Football Focus ranks Jackson outside the top 110 at corner this season, viewing his Patriots work as inferior to what he put on tape with the Chargers. Assuming Jack Jones will travel to Germany, the Pats will have the second-year corner along with Jonathan Jones as their top options in Week 10.

AFC East Rumors: Jones, Jackson, Jets

The NFL’s franchise in New England had been spoiled with their consistency at the quarterback position over the 20-year reign of Tom Brady. This season, though, many are wondering if Brady’s eventual successor, Mac Jones, has what it takes to retain his seat atop the depth chart. According to several different sources, his starting job as the Patriots‘ quarterback is safe for now.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was the first to report this morning that the Patriots would be sticking with Jones at quarterback for today’s game against the Saints and that “no change was imminent.” He did mention that second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe, who got about a quarter of the team’s offensive snaps is last week’s blowout loss to the Cowboys, got more practice snaps than usual throughout the week.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated detailed that a lot of the struggles seen with Jones last week were things that have been noticed at practice in New England. He asserts that Jones still has a bit of leeway with the coaching staff, but Jones is going to need to remedy those issues in order to keep it that way.

Even after another blowout loss today that saw Jones pulled from the game in the fourth quarter, head coach Bill Belichick confirmed that Jones will remain the team’s starter, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports. Belichick reportedly said that “the team will be ‘starting over’ as they move toward next Sunday’s game against the Raiders, but the new start won’t include a new” starter.

Here are a few other rumors out of the AFC East, starting with a new familiar face who recently returned to Massachusetts:

  • Recent trade acquisition from the Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson was once a prized free agent addition in Los Angeles after his original stint with the Patriots. But things this year deteriorated to the point that Jackson, who was a healthy scratch for the Chargers in Week 3, was asked to enter the game to fill in for an injured Michael Davis, and he refused to do so, per a joint report from Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Jackson, who had already sustained a serious injury during his time in Los Angeles, knew he had no future with the team and didn’t feel comfortable risking further injury. Additionally, the arrest warrant issued for Jackson in late September for reckless driving has reportedly been lifted, according to David Linton of The Sun Chronicle. Jackson paid the fine and agreed to probation in order to avoid arrest.
  • Along with Aaron Rodgers‘ former Green Bay teammates, wide receiver Mecole Hardman was considered a big addition to the Jets‘ receiving corps in the offseason. And despite his once prominent role on the perennial contender in Kansas City, Hardman has been a non-factor in the first five weeks of the season, including his status as a healthy scratch today. Hardman voiced his frustration to ESPN’s Rich Cimini saying, “I’m probably the best in the league in space. Maybe (the coaches) see something different. I’m just waiting for the opportunity to present itself. I think when I was in K.C., I proved that I was probably the most dangerous guy on the jet sweep, or whether it be on the end-around or on the screen, I think I proved year-out that I was that guy you had to worry about doing that.”
  • Sticking with the Jets, many expected a change to the composition of the quarterbacks room coming into the week. Cimini relayed head coach Robert Saleh‘s assessment that the room was “status quo” today. Tim Boyle remained as Zach Wilson‘s primary backup, while Trevor Siemian stayed down on the practice squad today.

Chargers To Trade J.C. Jackson To Patriots; Christian Gonzalez Likely Out For Season

The Chargers are giving up on their J.C. Jackson experiment. A year after signing the former Patriots standout to a big-ticket deal, the Bolts will cut bait and send the veteran defender back east. The Patriots are reacquiring Jackson, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports.

New England and Los Angeles will swap late-round picks in 2025, Rapoport adds. The Patriots and Chargers will exchange sixth- and seventh-rounders in the ’25 draft. This surprising move will aid a Pats team decimated at cornerback and make the AFC East squad responsible for part of a contract it did not want to pay in 2022.

A franchise tag candidate last year, Jackson instead hit the open market after not entering serious negotiations with the Pats. He followed the likes of Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore out the door. The Patriots have continually passed on paying corners, and they let the Bolts give the ballhawk a five-year, $82.5MM contract that came with $40MM guaranteed at signing. That deal did not end up working out for the AFC West club, and now Jackson will follow the likes of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins as defenders to reunite with the Patriots in recent years.

This trade will come after Christian Gonzalez sustained an injury against the Cowboys. The Patriots, who already played their Week 4 game without Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, are unlikely to have their first-round pick back until next season. Gonzalez sustained a torn shoulder labrum that is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season, Rapoport reports. The promising cover man is on track for surgery. WEEI’s Mike Kadlick initially reported Gonzalez suffered the labrum tear. The Oregon product had sought a second opinion, but with surgery upcoming, the Jackson trade will bring back a player quite familiar with Bill Belichick‘s system. Gonzalez will head to IR this week, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets.

Jackson’s fit in L.A. deteriorated swiftly. The Chargers made their highest-paid corner a healthy scratch in Week 3, a decision that confused Jackson, who had recovered from a ruptured patellar tendon in time for Week 1. Jackson did not play in the Bolts’ Week 4 win over the Raiders, either, and said last week he was not yet 100%. With his career stonewalled in California, one of the NFL’s premier turnover machines will be called upon to operate in the system that made him a high-end free agent target.

Despite missing the second half of last season due to the knee injury, Jackson has corralled 26 interceptions since coming into the league in 2018. No player has picked off that many passes in that span. Jackson grew into a regular as a rookie in 2018, helping a Gilmore- and Devin McCourty-led secondary keep the Rams out of the end zone in Super Bowl LIII. Given more responsibilities in the three ensuing seasons, Jackson intercepted 21 passes from 2019-21. The Patriots rolled out top-seven scoring defenses each year.

Illustrating Jackson’s limited trade value on this top-10 CB contract, the Chargers will cover much of his 2023 salary to facilitate the move. New England is only on the hook for $1.5MM of the $9.33MM remaining on Jackson’s base salary, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler adds. The Bolts will pick up the rest in a signing bonus. Considering the Pats’ hesitation with regards to meeting Jackson’s high price in 2022, this part of the transaction does not surprise.

Collins and Van Noy also returned at reduced rates; the Pats ended up moving away from Collins twice — while letting the Browns and Lions pay him — but coaxed quality production from their off-and-on linebacker while he was attached to lower-end money. Jackson is still signed through 2026 and carries base salaries of $12.4MM, $12MM and $12.1MM, respectively, from 2024-26. No more guarantees remain on the deal, though, offering the Patriots flexibility on a player they know well. Still, Jackson is coming off a down 2022 season in Brandon Staley‘s system — one that ended with a severe injury last October. Jackson was also issued an arrest warrant in connection with a 2021 speeding charge.

Jackson, 27, will rejoin slot bastion Jonathan Jones in the Pats’ secondary. Jack Jones is also eligible to come off IR in Week 5, though it is unclear if the second-year defender will be ready to do so. Marcus Jones is not eligible to come back until Week 7. The Gonzalez component, however, represents the biggest wound out of New England’s secondary injuries. This news also hits harder after the report of Matt Judon‘s biceps injury. Judon is out for an extended period, with surgery on tap. A late-season return is not out of the question, but the Pats’ secondary will face tougher assignments without the red-sleeved pass rusher providing steady pressure.

After trading down in Round 1, the Patriots chose Gonzalez at No. 17 overall. Washington had considered the Pac-12 prospect but chose Emmanuel Forbes at No. 16. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. assigned a top-10 grade to Gonzalez as a prospect, and the 6-foot-2 rookie had delivered immediate impact. Pro Football Focus ranked Gonzalez as the league’s seventh-best corner to start the season. His rookie contract runs through 2026, with the Patriots holding a fifth-year option for 2027. But this obviously stings for a Pats team that had never chosen a pure cornerback in the first round under Belichick.

The Chargers had held a slot competition between Asante Samuel Jr. and Ja’Sir Taylor this summer. While Samuel ended up winning it, Taylor replaced him inside early in the season. The second-generation NFLer re-emerged in a full-time role on the outside, and despite Staley having indicated a Jackson-Samuel-Michael Davis battle for boundary reps was on tap, the Bolts will rely on their younger corners going forward.

J.C. Jackson Addresses Chargers Demotion; CB To Play In Week 4

OCTOBER 1: When speaking to the media last week, Jackson added, via The Athletic’s Daniel Popper, that he is currently less than 100% healthy (subscription required). In spite of that, he will play on Sunday against the Raiders, something of significance since L.A’s defense will be missing edge rusher Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James. It will be interesting to see how large Jackson’s workload is against Davante Adams and Co. and whether Jackson can manage to earn greater trust from Staley and the rest of the coaching staff.

SEPTEMBER 28: J.C. Jackson has drifted onto shaky ground with the Chargers. A week that saw an arrest warrant emerge — in connection with a 2021 criminal speeding charge — began with the high-priced cornerback being a healthy scratch for the Bolts-Vikings matchup.

The former Patriots UDFA recovered from a ruptured patellar tendon, which he sustained in October 2022, in time for Week 1. Brandon Staley had said the team was ramping up Jackson’s workload after his lengthy rehab effort. That plan looks to be off script, with the Bolts taking him off the field ahead of a vital game in Minnesota.

I don’t know, what else do they expect me to do?” Jackson said, via NFL.com’s Bridget Condon. “I told [Staley], ‘What else do you expect me to do?’ I’ve been doing everything. I came back from my injury pretty fast. I’ve been putting in extra work after practice, even in meeting rooms. The DBs every Friday we all meet to do extra film and being a good teammate, so I don’t know what it is. I’m still kind of confused and still don’t have answers to why I’m getting treated like this.”

Avoiding the PUP list, Jackson operated in a part-time capacity during the season’s first two weeks. He started both games and playing 64% of the Bolts’ defensive snaps. Despite the Chargers desperate for a win and facing one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers — Justin Jefferson — their top corner was in street clothes without residing on the injury report. Asante Samuel Jr. joined Michael Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor as L.A.’s starting corners.

Staley said after Week 2 that Jackson, Samuel and Davis would vie for snaps on the outside. After losing the slot battle in training camp, Taylor has since regained the gig. Of course, Jackson continuing to be inactive would mean regular boundary snaps for Samuel, who initially won the slot job.

I know that I can help the team so it kind of frustrates me that I’m not starting and that coach has me sitting out, and I’m one of the best players on the team. I’m one of the best [defensive backs] that we have,” Jackson said.

The Chargers gave Jackson a five-year, $82.5MM deal ($40MM fully guaranteed) in March 2022 but have not seen that investment pay off yet. A candidate for a Patriots franchise tag last year, Jackson instead followed the other primary corners from the team’s run of 2010s Super Bowls — Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore — out the door. The Pats prioritized Jonathan Jones, who is now on his third contract with the team, and have otherwise invested in lower-cost players at the position.

A ballhawk with the Patriots, Jackson intercepted his first pass as a Charger in Week 1. He now has 26 INTs, the most in the NFL since 2018. He joined Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day as key defensive pickups in Staley’s second offseason. The Chargers could save more than $14MM by designating Jackson as a post-June 1 cut next year. While this situation might not be deteriorating to that point just yet, Jackson will certainly need to reclaim a regular role to avoid such a fate.

Arrest Warrant Issued For Chargers CB J.C. Jackson

J.C. Jackson‘s on-field situation has not developed as planed with the Chargers, and his off-field status continues to take unwanted turns as well. An arrest warrant has been issued for the high-priced cover man.

Failure to attend a probation violation hearing in Attleboro District Court is the cause for the warrant, reports MassLive’s Chris Mason. Jackson had initially been charged with criminal speeding in 2021 (during his time with the Patriots), but he failed to take a ‘Brains At Risk’ program which was mandatory as a result of his arrest. He also did not pay a $300 fine and failed to appear in court last week, leading to the warrant being issued.

Jackson was a healthy scratch on Sunday, a move which came as a surprise given the progress he had been making in his recovery from a ruptured patellar tendon early in the season. Mason’s report indicates no clear link between the benching decision and today’s news; likewise, Jeff Howe of The Athletic states the two are not related (subscription required).

The former UDFA was arrested last December for what was termed a ‘non-violent family issue.’ Jackson wound up being limited to five games in 2022, though his missed time came about only through injury, not suspension. The campaign was still a signficant disappointment, given the five-year, $82.5MM deal he signed in free agency as part of the Chargers’ efforts to fortify their defense.

Jackson struggled in his limited game action in 2022, although his first two performances this season offered a glimpse of improvement in coverage. After the Chargers gave up 24 points on 367 passing yards in Week 3, it will be interesting to see how Jackson figures into the team’s defensive game plans moving forward. No guaranteed base salary remains on his contract, but he is owed a $5MM roster bonus of the third day of each league year through its conclusion in 2026.

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.

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: Jackson, Jones, Broncos

J.C. Jackson suffered a ruptured patellar tendon during an Oct. 23 Chargers-Seahawks matchup. While this injury is among the toughest to surmount for an NFLer, the high-priced Bolts cornerback expects to be ready for training camp. Jackson has an appointment with the surgeon who performed his surgery, Dr. Neal El Attrache, this week, ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry notes. The sixth-year cornerback did not participate in the Chargers’ minicamp practices and will be a candidate to begin camp on the team’s active/PUP list. The Chargers could remove him from that list once he is cleared to practice. Only a placement on the reserve/PUP list once 53-man rosters are set would delay Jackson’s 2023 debut.

The Chargers, who gave Jackson a five-year deal worth $82.5MM in 2022, did not draft a cornerback or sign a notable free agent. The team has not re-signed veteran slot defender Bryce Callahan, though Asante Samuel Jr. has experience playing both inside and outside. A Callahan return would provide some insurance for the Bolts, but the 31-year-old cover man remains a free agent. Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • In talks with the Chiefs about a third contract, Chris Jones skipped minicamp and is lobbying to become the NFL’s second-highest-paid defensive tackle behind Aaron Donald. While these negotiations might bring complications — due to Donald’s AAV being $8.2MM north of the current second-highest-paid DT (Jeffery Simmons) — SI.com’s Albert Breer expects it to be finalized before training camp. It does not sound like these are particularly acrimonious negotiations. It will be interesting to see if Jones makes an aggressive push to approach a Donald-level salary, since the Chiefs would be unlikely to franchise-tag him in 2024 because of the 120% rule. The team tagged Jones in 2020, making his 2024 tag price 120% of his 2023 pay. That would give Jones a $33MM-plus cap figure if re-tagged, providing the All-Pro with leverage ahead of his latest platform year.
  • Shifting back to the secondaries in this division, the Broncos did brought back one of their veteran DBs midway through the offseason. Kareem Jackson re-signed for a fifth year in Denver. But the 14th-year pro only secured $153K guaranteed. That opens the door for the Broncos to move on, and 9News’ Mike Klis notes Caden Sterns is making his strongest effort yet to unseat Jackson for the safety gig alongside Justin Simmons. A 2021 fifth-round pick, Sterns has worked as Denver’s top backup safety for two seasons. A season-ending hip injury halted that run last year, and while Sterns entered the offseason as no lock to be ready for training camp, he made it back during Denver’s OTA sessions and participated in minicamp. Simmons and Jackson, 35, have been Denver’s safety starters since 2019.
  • The Chargers also added to their staff recently. They hired Noah Evangelides as a football research analyst, Neil Stratton of Insidetheleague.com tweets. Evangelides most recently served as a Northwestern graduate assistant.