Addae packs punch for Chargers' defense

SAN DIEGO -- Similar to the team's improved performance defensively, San Diego Chargers rookie safety Jahleel Addae's play has ascended during the second half of the season.

Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said he took a liking to the undrafted rookie free agent safety out of Central Michigan shortly after the team brought him in after the draft in April while watching him in the team’s offseason program.

“It’s probably one of the best examples that we have, from where he came from during training camp to now,” Pagano said. “The more reps you get, the more trust there is between players and being able to make those calls and being able to line up next to each other. That has been a key for him. He is a young player that is growing, that we are very excited about.”

At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Addae was mostly a special teams player during the first half of the season. But as Addae became more comfortable with the defense, Pagano began using him more as a fifth or sixth defensive back in passing situations.

“Obviously, being undrafted was motivation,” Addae said. “Everybody feels like they should be drafted. So that was another chip on my shoulder that I came in here with. And just the love of the game -- I’ve got my God-given ability, and I just try and show that every time I go out there.”

Addae played 53 snaps two weeks ago in a win over pass-happy Denver, as the Chargers played with five defensive backs most of the contest. And against Oakland last week, Addae logged 36 snaps.

Addae has 36 tackles and a sack in part-time duty. More than anything, Pagano said Addae brings a physical presence, energy and emotion to the defense.

“He is instinctive,” Pagano said. “He has that football awareness to be able to go make those football plays. It’s about taking the proper angles. It’s about the correct fit and the right leverage. When you see a player do those things and do them at a fast rate, they really show.”

Added Addae: “They have trust in me. And they give me opportunities to show what I can do and make plays. And I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”

Addae initially attend Central Michigan to play on offense, but after the defensive coaching staff watched him pancake a linebacker on a running play, he switched to defense.

Addae says playing safety runs in his blood. His older brother Jahmile Addae was a four-year starter and two-time captain for Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia. The older Addae was a finalist for the 2005 Ronnie Lott Trophy and was named to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award that same season.

Jahmile Addae signed a free agent contract with his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and spent the end of the season with Indianapolis, but injuries cut short his NFL career. He now works as a defensive graduate assistant at the University of Michigan.

“I always feel like I’m playing for him,” Addae said. “I’m playing for him, my family, those who helped me, and those who supported me. It’s much bigger than me.”