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Smart money’s on Strickland making plays

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 7, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Friday, August 6, 2010 at 10:04 p.m

    Donald Strickland’s signing bonus from the Chargers this past offseason won’t even cover the cost of the cornerback’s pending patent.

    It cannot be verified that he is the only player about whom the previous sentence could be written, but it’s a safe bet.

    Same with the following:

    Strickland’s mechanical engineering degree has fostered his ideas for business, but a desire to actually know how to run one drove him to take accelerated business courses over consecutive offseasons at Penn, Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern.

    “You’re always one injury away from not being able to play,” Strickland said.

    This is not a cliché when it comes from Strickland’s mouth.

    “I have definitely experienced a lot of injuries,” said Strickland, who has yet to play a full schedule in eight NFL seasons. “That’s why I made (education) a point of emphasis in case I can’t continue to live this dream.”

    While Strickland built up quite a list of contacts while playing in four cities before signing here in March, most of his current teammates have no idea about his impressive degree, patent ideas and his company’s plans for an interactive memento experience he can market to, among others, universities for their halls of fame.

    What the Chargers do know is he can cover in the middle of the field, so far seemingly as well as anyone has here in several seasons.

    “You can tell he’s sharp — talking to him and the way he plays,” quarterback Philip Rivers said.

    Strickland made a couple of big plays against the Chargers in January as a member of the New York Jets, including doing what few defensive backs had been able to do all season — win a battle for a ball with Malcom Floyd.

    But, as has become his pattern, Strickland also missed time during the 2009 season with injuries — a high ankle sprain, concussion and thigh bruise.

    A third-round draft pick of Indianapolis in 2003, Strickland was released by the Colts in the middle of the 2005 season and played part of that year with the Philadelphia Eagles and then three seasons in San Francisco before joining the Jets in ’09.

    That’s a lot of moving around, something valuable players usually don’t do. His limitations as a corner and, moreover, his injury history (including multiple shoulder surgeries) explain his transiency.
    But the fact that he is still in the league, at 5-10, 185 pounds and with a penchant for being injured, says something.

    “He’s got to be doing something right to be sticking around,” cornerback Quentin Jammer said. Already, what that is has been on display.

    “He’s just a smart player,” Rivers said. “… He’s terrific in disguising stuff. It’s one thing to disguise and it really doesn’t look like anything I’ve read before. But it’s another thing where you disguise and it all looks the same. It’s like, ‘Man, I can’t figure this guy out.’ ”

    It is not coincidence that much of this camp, while trading almost from series to series the upper hand with the offense, the Chargers’ pass defense has looked tighter than it has in some time. The players and coaches who are here are getting on the same page, the players more familiar with what they’re being asked and more compliant.
    But also, the new guy playing nickel has a hand, foot and mind in the middle of breaking up a lot of passes.

    Signed by the Chargers for a paltry $15,000 signing bonus a week after being released by the Jets, Strickland is a true nickel back. Most nickels also play corner, and Strickland could play outside in an emergency. But he was signed to be the guy the Chargers line up opposite the inside (slot) receiver.

    Playing nickel requires a discipline, knowledge and technique that is more complicated than for a cornerback. This largely has to do with the fact that an inside receiver can run either way without consideration of the sideline, but it also has to do with the necessity for a nickel to read run or pass and act accordingly.

    “It’s a corner and safety all in one,” Strickland said.

    “I think it’s the hardest position to play,” Jammer said.

    Being counted on to play the nickel, allowing Steve Gregory to move back to his natural position of safety, the Chargers will hope Strickland can stay healthy.

    Strickland said he has changed the way he’s played in an effort to stay on the field.

    “I know what I’m capable of,” Strickland said. “I’ve learned over the years how to maintain my body. I’m a big hitter. With my size, the law of physics, it just doesn’t add up. Now I’m being smarter. I don’t look for the big hit. I just look to get them down and live to play another day.”

    That’s probably smart.

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