Chargers focus on cornerback?

Antonio Cromartie

The Chargers need another cornerback. That may seem implausible, as the team has spent three first-round picks on the position over the last five years. However, if any of its top three were to go down with an injury, Steve Gregory would be forced into a nickel role for which he hardly seems ready.

Because of that, the Chargers took a long look at A.J. Davis while at the Senior Bowl.

It has never been more difficult to find a solid cornerback. Receivers are bigger and faster than ever before and an increased emphasis on illegal contact downfield has restricted what defenders can do to stop them. So it is understandable why Davis, a true cover corner with four years of collegiate experience, is expected to solicit plenty of interest on draft day.

Davis, a 5-foot-10, 186 lb. defender from North Carolina State, had an outstanding college career. His career totals include 152 tackles, 33 pass break-ups and four picks. Although his interception numbers are modest, he became a playmaker once the ball was in his hands, averaging more than 27 yards per return.

Equally important for the NFL rookie-to-be is his ability to contribute on special teams. In 2003, he spent some time as a kick returner, averaging 21.6 yards per return. In 2006, he played 40 snaps on special teams.

But while his pro career may begin with a lot of special teams work, he will be expected to earn his keep on defense. Should he end up in San Diego, he would compete to be the team's dime back during his rookie campaign.

"I need to show I can play off-coverage man. I come from a system where we played a lot of press," Davis said.

Unfortunately for Davis, he did not have the type of strong showing he was hoping to put forth during Senior Bowl week. His reaction time appeared sub-par and he seemed to lack closing speed. He did show some fluidity and the ability to protect against the big play, but overall he appeared unspectacular.

Now, Davis has until April 28, 2007 to prove he is better than his lackluster showing in Mobile, Ala. As he sees its, pre-draft performances mean even than his four years worth of game film when it comes to determining his draft status.

"Film is film. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have great film. Now, it is how you play with all this pressure on you," said Davis early during Senior Bowl week. "Then, at the combine, it is how do you perform? How fast are you? How high do you jump? That covers the measurables."

Apparently, his combination of film and measurables has been good enough to merit the attention of several NFL teams. He met with the 49ers, Falcons, Panthers and Chargers while in Mobile. Davis is a well spoken and articulate individual, meaning he likely shined during most private interview sessions.

Davis may never be an elite player, but he could very well blossom into a solid nickel back, a reliable special teams contributor and a positive locker room presence.

With the Chargers lacking depth in the secondary and in need of another high character player (the team's numerous arrests would be drawing a lot more attention were it not for the one-upmanship of the Cincinnati Bengals), Davis might just be an ideal fit.

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