COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers last week, defensive back Jaylen Watkins will likely get an opportunity to compete for the free safety job left vacant with the departure of Tre Boston in free agency.
A jack-of-all-trades secondary player for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles last season, Watkins has actually taken the most defensive snaps in the NFL at free safety (290 defensive snaps according to ESPN Stats & Information), during his four years in the NFL.
Watkins played the most for the Eagles last season in Philadelphia’s regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, a 6-0 loss. He was lined up as a deep safety 22 times, so if you’re interested in seeing what Watkins looks like as a free safety, that’s a good game to watch.
He finished with seven tackles in that game, including five from the deep middle position, showing good range in the running game.
At 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, Watkins ran a 4.41-second, 40-yard time at the NFL scouting combine and was a fourth-round selection by the Eagles in the 2014 draft.
Watkins was a player the Chargers liked coming out of Florida. His genuine nature and deep knowledge of the game should also be a hit in the locker room for the Bolts.
Watkins finished with 56 combined tackles, eight pass breakups and no interceptions in four years with the Eagles, so playmaking ability is a concern. However, Watkins does have four interceptions in preseason play, including this interception of Matt Moore in an exhibition contest against the Miami Dolphins last year.
In college at Florida, Watkins totaled 133 combined tackles, seven pass breakups and three interceptions. Watkins is the older, half-brother of Sammy Watkins, so the two brothers will now play against each other twice a year when the Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs face off.
While Watkins could be in the running to earn a starting job at safety, I believe the signing is more about adding a young, versatile defender to the defensive backfield who can play multiple positions for the Chargers.
"One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility because he has played both [safety and corner]," former head coach Chip Kelly said regarding Watkins after the Eagles drafted him in 2014. "Extremely high football intelligence. Could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence."