The Chargers loaded up on defensive talent this offseason, with the additions of defensive backs JC Jackson and Bryce Callahan making noise.
But one of the most important players in the secondary could be Asante Samuel, Jr., an in-house option who could be in line for a big leap.
Samuel, the 47th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, showed some flashes in his rookie year. He played in 12 games, accumulating 43 total tackles, 11 passes defended and two interceptions — one against the Cowboys and another on the road against the Chiefs.
Former NFL defensive back DeAngelo Hall, who played 14 seasons and now contributes to NFL.com, recently highlighted three cornerbacks who he thinks are ready to have a breakout year in their second season. Among those three was Samuel Jr., whom Hall notes has some similarities to his father.
…The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Samuel. His father, Asante Samuel, was one of the best ballhawks of his generation, leading the league in interceptions twice during his 11-year pro career. Samuel Jr. has the same body control and ball skills to be a pick machine in this league, already having nabbed two interceptions in his first season with the Chargers.
Samuel got off to a hot start in his rookie year, but injuries plagued the back half of his season. With Samuel now healthy, and with an All-Pro corner in Jackson on the other side, his game could blossom.
Samuel has a real opportunity to make plays this fall playing opposite shutdown corner JC Jackson and behind a top-tier pass rush that features Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.
Jackson said Friday that Samuel has asked him questions in camp to try to pick his brain — something that the veteran corner is more than willing to do. Jackson also had high praise for the corner entering his second year.
“He’s got a big future ahead of him,” said Jackson after the eighth day of training camp. “I love being around Asante. Sometimes he asks me for tips and questions and as an older guy, I love to motivate and help the young guys as much as I can. He’s going to be good. Look out for him.”
Samuel has flashed all throughout training camp by making plays in the secondary. The added depth this year gives Samuel some added flexibility, as he can play in different positions as needed. With this, a second-year breakout season could be on the horizon for the young cornerback.