The Los Angeles Chargers’ Next Defensive Star Absolutely Was the Biggest Steal of the 2021 NFL Draft, And He Has a Familiar Name

The Los Angeles Chargers appear to be one of the most balanced teams in the NFL right now. They feature a potent offense, led by Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams. New head coach Brandon Staley also has the defense playing well.

The Chargers’ front office got a great haul in the 2021 NFL Draft, including a cornerback with star potential written all over him.

The Los Angeles Chargers are ranked No. 3 in team defense

The Chargers brought in Brandon Staley to be their head coach after the 2020 season. He served as the outside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos before becoming the LA Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2021.

The Rams finished with the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 2020. The Chargers are now in a position to be just as dominant in 2021.

LA currently ranks No. 3 in team defense, allowing just 1,115 yards and 60 points to opposing offenses through the season’s first three weeks.

While the numbers support this being an elite defense, the Chargers have experienced some difficulty stopping the run. They’ve given up the ninth-most rushing yards to opposing running backs. They have some injuries up front, so that is likely to change at some point.

On the flip side, the pass defense has been stellar. It has allowed the second-least passing yards to quarterbacks in 2021.

With a dominant pass rush led by Joey Bosa, the Chargers’ talented secondary gets plenty of opportunities to roam around and make plays.

LA Chargers CB Asante Samuel Jr. looks like a stud

Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr in action
Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. warms up before Cowboys game | Harry How/Getty Images

LA’s secondary is loaded with talent, and it features an immensely talented young cornerback.

The Chargers’ front office selected Asante Samuel Jr. with the No. 47 overall pick in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Florida State.

The Las Vegas Raiders signed Casey Hayward in free agency. He was a key contributor in the Chargers’ defense over the past four seasons. Still, LA has all the confidence in the world in Samuel, who was a special player in college.

Samuel’s ball skills were his greatest attribute heading into the draft. He picked off three passes in eight games as a junior at Florida State. He’s 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, so some analysts predicted that his lack of height could cause matchup problems in the NFL, including Pro Football Network.

The former Seminoles star has already turned heads in the league, though, notching two interceptions in three games. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for September.

Brandon Staley is pleased with the Fort Lauderdale native’s performance so far. “I think him earning rookie of the month just shows you his capacity because he’s been able to go nose to nose with three really good opponents,” he said per The Los Angeles Times.

LA’s secondary is dangerous with Samuel, Chris Harris Jr., Derwin James, and Nasir Adderley.

Asante Samuel Sr. enjoyed a successful NFL career as well

For those who have watched football for the past two decades, the Chargers’ young corner’s name sounds familiar. His father, Asante Samuel Sr., played 11 seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons.

Samuel Sr. recorded 439 tackles, 164 pass defenses, and 51 interceptions for his career. The Central Florida product earned four Pro Bowl selections and won two Super Bowls with the Patriots.

The older Samuel went in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. His son was a second-rounder but arguably possessed first-round talent. The younger Samuel plays at about the same size as his dad, but he plays bigger than what he stands. His ball skills also rival those of Samuel Sr.

Asante Samuel Jr. is already proving he belongs in the conversation with the other top rookie cornerbacks like Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn.

The early returns on the Los Angeles Chargers’ second-round pick suggest he was the steal of the draft.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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