DeVonta Smith is due for his breakout rookie performance
The injury bug has battered the Chargers’ secondary over the years, and this season remains no different. Starting outside cornerback Michael Davis re-injured his hamstring in Week 8 and has not practiced this week. His counterpart, rookie sensation Asante Samuel Jr, remains in concussion protocol after a hit sustained last week and has not practiced all week either.
In their place, Los Angeles trotted out Ryan Smith, a fifth-year player who signed with the team this offseason after being drafted by the Bucs. With Tampa Bay, Smith allowed 13.5 yards per reception, a 66.4 completion percentage when targeted, and 11 touchdowns surrendered to just one interception.
On the other side, Tevaughn Campbell filled in for Asante Samuel Jr and performed well, allowing only 38 yards and four receptions on eight passes thrown his way in the 2nd half. Campbell, a 2019 undrafted free agent out of the University of Regina in Canada, gave up 11.5 yards per reception with a 64.5 completion percentage and four touchdowns allowed to one interception during his rookie campaign. However, this year he’s looked much better in coverage and has carved out a role as a versatile inside/outside defensive back.
The Slim Reaper’s rookie season has been sub-par compared to what many fans expected, but that’s not for lack of skill or his ability to get open. After not dropping a pass for the first four weeks of his NFL career, Devonta Smith now has three drops in his last four games. Hurts has missed DeVonta as his secondary read multiple times this season, and I can’t imagine the young receiver is delighted with those missed opportunities.
Derwin James is a very notable factor that could derail this gameplan, but he typically does not line up outside. Of his 304 defensive snaps this season, he’s aligned as the outside corner only six times. However, he’s still a complete defensive game-changer in the secondary and prevents many big plays down the field with his ball tracking and hard-hitting abilities. Before the injuries to their starting cornerbacks, the Chargers currently rank 5th in NFL, allowing just over 203 passing yards per game.
Suppose Ryan Smith stays out with that hamstring injury and Asante Samuel Jr remains in the concussion protocol. Why not let DeVonta be the offense’s focal point against an unreliable 5th-year veteran or a still unproven 2nd-year player? The 10th overall pick has too many weapons at his disposal in the receiving game to be an afterthought in this offense. And I know, the running game is just getting going, but if there is any game to unleash The Slim Reaper upon the NFL, it could be against these particular cornerbacks in what could be a high-scoring affair in South Philadelphia.
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