It’s been an offseason of change for the San Diego Chargers and some of the biggest changes came in the defensive secondary.
Gone are Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason and Atari Bigby, replaced by free-agent acquisition Derek Cox and youngsters Shareece Wright and Marcus Gilchrist.
Unfortunately, elevating two of their younger role players into starting jobs left the Chargers a little thin in the secondary.
The Chargers claimed Johnny Patrick off waivers and drafted Steve Williams this offseason to compete for the slot cornerback job, but recently lost Williams for the season to a torn pectoral muscle.
According to the team's official website, the Chargers signed defensive back Richard Marshall on Friday to add depth to the unit. Recently released by the Miami Dolphins, Marshall is more than capable of starting if there are injuries or young players struggle in their new roles.
Marshall played just four games last year after signing a three-year, $14 million contract. His season was cut short by a serious back injury and he was cut because the Dolphins didn't think he was worth what he was due to make in 2013.
According to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com, the decision to cut Marshall was tough for the Dolphins because he is a great locker room guy.
That’s also good news for the Chargers, because it’s never a bad idea to bring guys that are great in the locker room with so much youth in the secondary.
Marshall has also been a productive player in the past, which is more than you can say for more than half of the Chargers’ current secondary. Marshall’s ability, experience and character may prove to be quite valuable to the team considering how late he was added to the roster.
Although Marshall has experience playing in the slot, playing him there may or may not be a good idea.
According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required), Marshall had seven negatively graded games in a row as Arizona’s primary slot defender in 2011.
However, he was a totally different player once they moved him outside and he graded positively in seven of the final eight games there.
Dating back to Marshall’s years with the Carolina Panthers, the results are bit more mixed. Marshall’s performance in 2009 was better outside than in the slot, but he struggled playing primarily on the outside in 2010 and did well playing almost exclusively in the slot in 2008.
Given that the Chargers just lost Williams to injury, Marshall’s path to playing time may come via the slot.
Don’t be surprised if Patrick is able to hold Marshall off for a while or if Wright slides down into the slot when Marshall is in the game.
Marshall’s signing is bad news for the cornerbacks battling for a roster spot in San Diego. Marcus Cromartie, Greg Gatson and William Middleton now have to battle for just one or two open spots on the final 53-man roster and the Chargers could go to the waiver wire for additional quality depth.
The Chargers have some talent in the secondary, but it’s still probably the most suspect position group on defense.
If pass-rusher Dwight Freeney doesn't have a monster year, the secondary will have to be strong.
As the Chargers can attest, health can be an issue for teams just as much as performance and it’s never a bad idea to add quality depth. If Marshall is healthy, he’s exactly the kind of player the Chargers needed.
Unfortunately, the Chargers probably need another player like Marshall to make it through a 16-game season.