San Diego Chargers: Steve Gregory Will Be Huge in the Secondary Once Again

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIAugust 15, 2011

Steve Gregory intercepts Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers.
Steve Gregory intercepts Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers.Harry How/Getty Images

I was surprised that the San Diego Chargers decided to cut Donald Strickland. Maybe they thought Strickland was too old at 30 and wanted to get younger. 

Strickland did a great job in his role as the nickle back for the Bolts. Then again, I was equally surprised that they brought him in to replace Steve Gregory in that role in the first place. 

I can't argue with the results of that decision. The Chargers ended up with No. 1 ranked pass defense, which was legitimized by dominant performances against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Kyle Orton.

Brady's passing yardage looked like a typical game from JaMarcus Russell; Peyton Manning turned the ball over more than Rex Grossman playing in a Super Bowl; and Kyle Orton looked like Tim Tebow without the rushing yards.

There was an able man at every defensive back position for the Bolts in 2010. Without a strong rushing attack, teams had no chance to successfully pass the ball against the Chargers. 

The decision to bring in Strickland last season was good, because of what the team had at safety. The Chargers didn't trust their young safeties, Paul Oliver and Darrell Stuckey, to outperform Gregory at the strong safety position and they were correct. The move allowed Steve Gregory to start at strong safety where he was was able to shine.

Oliver now plays for the New Orleans Saints, but he also did a great job when he had to replace a suspended Gregory for four games. Without Strickland, there would have been a whole lot of shuffling to replace Gregory. 

With Bob Sanders taking over at strong safety and Eric Weddle already in place, they have an All-Pro tandem at safety. History says Bob Sanders won't make it through the season, so Gregory may have to return to strong safety at some point.

Always thinking ahead, Chargers general manager AJ Smith picked up a clone of Strickland in the second round of the draft.  

Marcus Gilchrist was drafted both as a future replacement for Quentin Jammer and as an immediate contributor in the nickle and dime packages. Gilchrist started the game against the Seattle Seahawks last week and was outstanding. There is no guarantee that he won't supplant Gregory as the nickle back, but with Gregory's quickness and instincts for blowing up short plays, that won't be easy.

To avoid once again starting the season 2-3, the Chargers need all the veterans they can get. I predict that the Chargers will be starting the season with Gregory at the nickle spot and will win at least three of their first five games.