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Asante Samuel Jr. 2022 Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers

Why Asante Samuel Jr. is Poised for Breakout Season in 2022

  • Jack McKessy
  • July 26, 2022
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Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. didn’t quite have the strong rookie season he likely hoped to have in 2021. But after showing flashes of potential in a strong start to his career early last fall, he’s on the verge of a breakout season as a second-year player in 2022.

A lot of the disappointment from last season doesn’t stem from poor performances on the field. Samuel actually had an outstanding start to his career during the first few weeks of the 2021 season.

In Week 1, he recorded a tackle for a loss against Washington, then in Week 2, he snagged his first NFL interception against the Cowboys and recorded three pass break ups. He followed that strong performance with another good one in Week 3 versus the Chiefs, picking off Patrick Mahomes inside the 10-yard line for his second career interception in what ended up being a very close Chargers win.

No, last season was disappointing for Samuel because of some unfortunate injury luck. After such a strong start to the season, the young corner’s production and development came to a screeching halt when he suffered a concussion in Week 8. Then, after missing just one game, Samuel had to enter concussion protocol in Week 11—the second time in three weeks—when he suffered another head injury tackling Steelers running back Najee Harris. That forced the then-rookie out for four more games before he returned for the final three weeks of the Chargers’ season.

In total, that meant Samuel missed five full games—and about half of two more—in his rookie year with Los Angeles. He didn’t record another interception after the two in the first three weeks of the season, so it’s easy to wonder how much more productive the defender could have been if he was able to stay on the field for more than 10 full games.

This year, we (hopefully) won’t have to worry about seeing what Samuel can do in a full season now that he’s back and healthy. What we do have to wonder about is what role he’ll fill in a Chargers secondary that now features elite cornerback talent J.C. Jackson, who left the Patriots in free agency.

Last year, Samuel played as an outside corner opposite five-year veteran Michael Davis, where he tallied the two aforementioned interceptions as well as 11 pass defenses and 43 tackles. With Jackson joining the fold and former Chargers slot corner Chris Harris Jr. still a free agent, it’s likely that Samuel gets more looks in the slot this season.

The young corner got some experience in that role in his first couple of seasons at Florida State, and some believed his lack of size would mean he projected better as an inside corner in the NFL. Well, last season proved that he could more than hold his own against outside receivers at the pro level, often even better than Davis did.

The addition of Jackson, then, likely means more flexibility within the Los Angeles secondary. Samuel could rotate in and out of the slot depending on what opposing teams threw at the Chargers, and head coach Brandon Staley has reason to believe the second-year corner will succeed in both roles. If Samuel does show promise as both an inside and outside cornerback, he could quickly establish himself as one of the NFL’s best young secondary defenders in a division that will feature plenty of high-flying, pass-heavy offenses.

Along with more games and an increased role in the Chargers’ defense, Samuel will get to enjoy the benefits of having an even stronger pass-rush attack in front of him. Of course, four-time Pro Bowler Joey Bosa is returning, but Los Angeles also traded for another premium edge rusher: Khalil Mack. With Bosa and Mack pressuring opposing quarterbacks on both sides and defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson forcing their way up the middle, Samuel could get even more opportunities to make plays in the secondary thanks to more hurried throws.

There’s a lot to like about Samuel’s circumstances in the coming season after showing great flashes of potential in a limited sample size as a rookie. With more time on the field, an increased role playing on both the outside and inside and an even better pass rush in front of him, Samuel could be gearing up for a big breakout season.

Written By

Jack McKessy