Jahleel Addae vying for starting safety job

SAN DIEGO -- In the humblest way possible, San Diego Chargers second-year pro Jahleel Addae acknowledged he's competing for the starting strong safety job lining up next to his mentor, Eric Weddle.

"I'm just out here competing," Addae said. "If that's what happens, it happens. Obviously, like anyone that's my goal, to be a starter in the NFL. I wouldn't want it any other way. But if I'm not, it's not because I didn't give my hardest effort.

"But regardless of what my role is, you'll still see No. 37 flying [to the ball]."

Addae, 24, was effusive in his praise of Weddle, explaining how the veteran safety and two-time Pro Bowler took him under his wing as a rookie last season.

"Since day one when I came in he treated me with the utmost respect," Addae said. "He treated me like a vet and just taught me the game -- the ins and outs of the defense. He guided me and taught me how to be a professional."

While studying the playbook at night, Addae said he would text Weddle when he had questions about the defense. Addae mimicked everything his mentor did on and off the field; Addae said he could even grow a beard reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle like his elder teammate.

"If he drinks a bottle of Gatorade every two seconds, that's what I'm going to do," Addae said, smiling.

An undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan in 2013, Addae worked his way up the depth chart, becoming a regular contributor on defense by the end of his rookie season. Addae started two regular-season games and one playoff contest. Used mostly in passing situations as a deep safety, Addae finished the regular season with 38 tackles, a sack and three pass breakups.

"He's talented," Weddle said. "He's a very humble kid. He's eager to learn. He listens and he's going to play a lot. So he needs to understand and continue to play like he did the latter part of the year. He’s got to shore up his tackling, come to balance and let his instincts, his tenacity and his energy outshine everything."

Addae is competing with another young playmaker for a starting job in Marcus Gilchrist. The Clemson product started all 16 games in his first season as a full-time starter, finishing third on the team in tackles with 77.

Like Addae, Gilchrist can play multiple positions in defensive coordinator John Pagano’s system, so whoever does not win the starting job will still receive a lot of playing time on defense and special teams.

Addae also said he could play cornerback in a pinch.

"If they want me to I can get my Deion [Sanders] on," Addae said.

Along with developing into more of a playmaker, Addae said one of his goals this offseason is working to add a few pounds. Addae is up to 202 pounds and wants to remain there through training camp. Last season, the 5-foot-10 safety played at 194 pounds.

The hard-hitting Addae also is known for the physical way he plays, and that sometimes includes delivering knockout blows to his own teammates. Manti Te'o and Gilchrist had to leave the AFC divisional playoff game against Denver after accidentally receiving bone-crunching hits from Addae.

"They give me a lot of stuff for hitting my own teammates," Addae said. "But I don't know, that's just my game. I’m just aggressive. I like to hit. I like contact. I like being physical. Maybe I've just got to keep my eyes open when I hit."

Whether he's a starter or vital role player, San Diego coach Mike McCoy expects Addae to make an impact defensively in his second season.

"He’s very instinctive in what he does," McCoy said. "And he's done some nice things already. For a young player, he's a great communicator. He does a great job on the back end. It helps when you have a player that kind of shows you the ropes every day the way it should be done -- not just every once in a while. Eric's a true pro. And Jahleel's learned a lot from him."