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Chargers' Asante Samuel Jr. had it covered against Cowboys

·4 min read
Cornerback (26) Asante Samuel, Jr. of the Los Angeles Chargers intercepts a pass and runs against the Dallas Cowboys in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. The Cowboys defeated the Chargers 20-17. (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. runs after intercepting a pass against the Cowboys. (Jeff Lewis / Associated Press)

Asante Samuel Jr. had his first career interception Sunday, picking off an errant Dak Prescott pass to end Dallas’ second possession.

Coach Brandon Staley praised the Chargers’ rookie cornerback for the play but said there were better ways to gauge Samuel’s performance to date.

“You can really measure him when he's going nose to nose with somebody really good,” Staley said Wednesday. “You can measure Asante less on his interception — which is fantastic — but more on a nose-to-nose play.”

Two examples from Sunday came against Amari Cooper, the Cowboys’ four-time Pro Bowl wideout.

Samuel broke up a second-down pass intended for Cooper in the end zone in the first quarter. He then blanketed Cooper to force an incompletion on fourth down shortly before halftime.

“When you’re nose to nose with a premium player, with a $100-million receiver, how are you playing?” Staley said. “He’s shown that he can go nose to nose.”

Cooper signed a five-year contract worth up to $100 million in March 2020. He has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and caught 92 passes last year.

Staley also applauded Samuel, a second-round pick, for bouncing back after he permitted a completion Sunday to CeeDee Lamb, a receiver Staley called “one of the elite players in the league.”

“What happened after that 14-yard play is he got right back in the huddle and kept playing,” Staley said. “That's what we need from him. We really like coaching the guy. He's got real toughness, real instincts.

Chargers' Asante Samuel Jr. breaks up a pass intended for Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper (19) in the end zone.
Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. breaks up a pass intended for Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper (19) in the end zone. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“He's going to have to continue to improve his game because the type of passing game that you see in the NFL is fierce and the type of people that he's going to have to tackle is fierce.”

The challenge elevates this week for Samuel, who enters his first career matchup against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a Kansas City offense that features blurring speed in receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman.

Hill, especially, has burned the Chargers in recent seasons — both catching passes and returning kicks. He is coming off a three-catch, 14-yard performance at Baltimore after totaling 197 yards receiving against Cleveland.

Adderley's injured finger

Third-year safety Nasir Adderley said Wednesday he is dealing with a dislocated finger that he originally hurt in college. Adderley said the problem is impacting his ability to catch the ball.

He clearly missed a potential interception in the Chargers’ 20-16 win at Washington in Week 1. On Sunday, he was unable to secure a Prescott pass in the end zone intended for tight end Blake Jarwin.

“I’ve never had a problem coming down with interceptions and stuff like that,” Adderley said, adding that those are “plays I’ve made all my life.”

Regarding the play against Jarwin, Staley said: “Yeah, we want to finish that play. But he climbed a ladder. He was up, up and away on that.”

Washington ran a similar route against Adderley with tight end Logan Thomas in the opener. In that case, the result was an 11-yard touchdown because Adderley was out of position.

This time, even without producing the pickoff, he used much better technique.

“I think he took a big step forward ...” Staley said. “I felt like he tackled really well. He was really active from a communication standpoint. I really felt like he played a good game. I felt him. I saw him.”

Harris still out

Defensive back Chris Harris Jr. remained out Wednesday because of a shoulder injury. He was hurt in the Chargers’ opener and sat out the game against Dallas.

Defensive lineman Justin Jones (calf) also did not practice after not playing against the Cowboys.

Edge rusher Joey Bosa (ankle) and safety Derwin James Jr. (toe) were the only other players to miss practice. Those two situations are thought to be more precautionary.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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