Football

Chargers’ Jason Verrett stands tall in his second NFL season

The Chargers’ Jason Verrett, tackling the Jaguars’ Allen Robinson, has come into his own.
The Chargers’ Jason Verrett, tackling the Jaguars’ Allen Robinson, has come into his own. AP

Jason Verrett always knew he was big enough to play in the NFL. Everyone else now knows.

The San Diego Chargers cornerback earned national attention by shutting down Steelers receiver Antonio Brown on Monday Night Football on Oct. 12.

Brown, who averages almost eight catches and 108 yards per game, caught only three passes for 45 yards against Verrett, who had two tackles and a pass breakup.

“I heard a lot from it,” Verrett said in a phone interview. “I was more disappointed that we got the loss, more so than the way I played. But on the plus side, I thought that was one of my better games this year as far as coverage. Antonio Brown is arguably one of the best receivers in the game, if not the best receiver. So it’s a game I’ll never forget, being on Monday Night Football.”

Verrett has played as he did his three seasons as a starter at TCU. Eric Ward, Antwan Goodley and Odell Beckham were among the wideouts Verrett frustrated during his college days, and Golden Tate, Alshon Jeffery and Brown have felt Verrett’s presence this season.

Quarterbacks have targeted Verrett 45 times, with the cornerback allowing 25 catches for 462 yards and no touchdowns, according to STATS. Verrett has eight pass breakups, and he returned his only interception 68 yards for a touchdown against the Bears.

“I feel like this season has been going real well thus far,” Verrett said. “I’m thanking God I’m a lot healthier than I was last year. That just came with following a lot of the veterans as far as taking care of your body, eating the right things, lifting, cold tubbing, massage, acupuncture, all those things that come with the health part of football. I’m just real happy with how things have been going, and the way I’ve been playing at a high level, and I just want to finish off the rest of these games.”

The Chargers drafted Verrett with the 25th overall pick last year. He likely would have gone much higher had he not measured 5-foot-9 1/2 . Some scouts insisted he could never play outside, only the slot, because of his size.

The Chargers already had signed 5-9 cornerback Brandon Flowers as a free agent to start opposite Verrett. Defensive coordinator John Pagano had no qualms counting on Flowers and Verrett.

“There are a lot of guys bigger than me, but sometimes they aren’t where they’re supposed to be in coverage, the way that I play,” Verrett said. “I’m not taking shots or anything, but it’s a mentality you have to have. No matter who it is I’m lining up against, whether he’s 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-1 or 5-10, my job is just to stop them from getting a lot of catches.”

Verrett discovered in his rookie season, though, that he could do more to take care of his body. He tore the labrum in his shoulder during the third game of his senior season against Texas Tech and missed only one game, playing through it the rest of the year.

He missed just two games last season but played only 230 snaps because of more shoulder problems.

“I didn’t do the things that I’m doing now, as far as taking care of my body and doing those types of things,” Verrett said. “You can’t control the injuries as far as getting hurt out there on the field. Anything can happen. The main thing I learned from that year was just kind of figure out why that happened. Maybe I could have been in the weight room longer, or maybe I could have stayed an extra 10 minutes in the cold tub. So I always try to find a positive in any negative situation.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

My five cents

1. In his fourth season, Ryan Tannehill has his third offensive coordinator. The Miami Dolphins fired his college coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, after two seasons as offensive coordinator, and they fired Bill Lazor last week after less than two years. Now, it’s Zac Taylor, Sherman’s son-in-law, who takes over calling plays. Taylor and Tannehill have shared the same sideline for eight years. Taylor was a grad assistant at A&M for four years before moving to Miami in 2012, the year the Dolphins took Tannehill in the first round.

2. Defenders can’t win. They get penalized and fined for blows to the head and neck and criticized for tackles below the knees. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called for the league to ban low hits on receivers after tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured last week.

3. The St. Louis Rams haven’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Marc Bulger in 2006. They thought they solved that in 2010 by using the No. 1 overall pick on Sam Bradford. But Bradford plays for the Philadelphia Eagles after an off-season trade, and the Rams have started two quarterbacks this season. St. Louis appears no closer to solving its lack of a franchise signal-caller, with Nick Foles, whom they signed to a two-year, $24.5 million contract extension, clearly not the answer.

4. The excitement over Rex Ryan’s arrival in Buffalo has worn off with Bills fans after only 11 games. Some even have called for his ouster on social media, though he’s not even through the first year of a five-year deal worth $27.5 million. The Bills have a 15-year playoff drought.

5. Running back Chris Johnson appeared to be hitting a wall before he fractured a tibia. His longest run the past three games was 9 yards. The Arizona Cardinals placed him on short-term injured reserve, giving him a shot to return for Super Bowl 50 if they get there. In the meantime, rookie David Johnson gets his shot. The third-round pick from Northern Iowa has 35 carries for 139 yards this season.

Who’s hot

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham has four consecutive 100-yard games, having caught 30 passes for 481 yards and five touchdowns. In only 23 career games, Beckham has 2,310 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Who’s not

Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has played in only nine games. Yet, he has 10 penalties, including six holding calls. He has tied Morgan Moses for the team lead. Reed has made 55 receptions for 541 yards and six touchdowns.

Numbers game

5 Consecutive games the Kansas City Chiefs have gone without committing a turnover, tied for the second-longest streak in one season in NFL history. The 2011 San Francisco 49ers also went five games without a turnover. The 2010 New England Patriots set the record with a seven-game streak.

2016 NFL Draft

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 projections for the 2016 draft based on current standings:

1. Tennessee Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

2. Cleveland Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

3. San Diego Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

4. Dallas Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

5. San Francisco Jared Goff, QB, Cal

6. Baltimore Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

7. Philadelphia Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

8. Miami Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

9. New Orleans Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

10. Jacksonville Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Blitz

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season in leading the league in rushing. He had never averaged less than 4.1 yards per carry until this season (3.5).

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has 23 road victories in his five seasons. That ties Dalton with Ben Roethlisberger, Dan Marino and Matt Ryan for the most road wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons, with the former TCU star having a chance to break the NFL record this week.

Austin Davis becomes the 24th starting quarterback for Cleveland since it returned as an expansion team in 1999.

The Houston Texans allowed only two touchdowns in the month of November, tying them for the fourth-lowest NFL total in the month since 1970. They have given up only two touchdowns in the past 18 quarters.

The Baltimore Ravens have had each of their 11 games decided by eight points or fewer, the first team in NFL history to have that many consecutive matchups determined by one score.

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs eight catches to reach 1,000 for his career. He needs 8 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. His last 1,000-yard season was 2011.

Colts backup Matt Hasselbeck has a 4-0 record this season, the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive games at the age of 40 or older. He has passed for 1,023 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions for a 94.4 passer rating.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has thrown three interceptions, but none since the third game of the season. He has 283 consecutive attempts without being intercepted. Tom Brady holds the NFL record with 358 attempts without an interception.

Adrian Peterson leads the league with 373 yards in the fourth quarter. The Vikings running back had two games without a fourth-quarter carry but has 47 carries in the final period for a 7.9-yard average.

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt leads all NFL defensive linemen in tackles with 55. He also leads the league in sacks (13.5), tackles for loss (23) and quarterback hits (40).

Aaron Rodgers has a 32-12 record in his career against the NFC North after Thursday night’s victory.

Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.

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