Chargers’ Adderley, a rookie with a big legacy, can lay out like Willie Mays

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Los Angeles Chargers defensive backs coach Ron Milus can point to the play when Nasir Adderley, the team’s second-round pick out of Delaware, grabbed his attention. It’s when the rookie safety with ties to the Pro Football Hall of Fame looked like a Hall of Famer from a different sport.

It’s late in the second half of a win over the University of Richmond when Adderley sprints deep down the field and makes an acrobatic, diving catch for an interception.

“It’s a pump fake,” Milus says, “the guy does a double move and he starts down the middle of the field. The ball goes down the middle of the field and he makes a lay-out-flat, over-the-shoulder catch — the kind that Willie Mays used to make.

“That was probably the one that showed us, ‘OK, this guy’s got real ball skills. He can make the unusual catch.’ I thought that was pretty unique for most players at that level of play.”

The Chargers have not had a true, ball-hawking free safety since Eric Weddle left in free agency before the 2016 season. Milus believes that Adderley, who prefers to go by Nas, can help the Jack Boys take the ball away more in 2019. The Chargers had just 13 interceptions last season after finishing tied for first with 18 in 2016.

Adderley believes landing with the Chargers, where he can pair with second-year strong safety Derwin James, was the perfect fit.

“Man, it’s incredible,” Adderley said about playing with James. “We can be one of the best safety duos in the league. I can promise you that.”
Nasir Adderley totaled 264 combined tackles, 11 interceptions and 24 pass deflections while at Delaware. Ben McKeown/Icon Sportswire

Not so fast, says Milus. Adderley, who will participate in the team’s rookie minicamp May 10-12, will have to earn the starting job first, competing with incumbent Rayshawn Jenkins and Jaylen Watkins.

“Let’s let these guys grow up,” Milus said, pumping the brakes. “I’m not even going to go there. But I like the potential of these two, young players that hopefully can grow together, and be a nice little tandem for the future.”

A four-year starter at Delaware, Adderley totaled 264 combined tackles, 11 interceptions and 24 pass deflections. He spent his first two seasons at cornerback and the past two at safety.7

Although he played at a small school, Adderley impressed during Senior Bowl week. He was named a North team captain, finishing with a pick and five tackles in a 34-24 win over the South.

“He’s a ball hawk, a playmaker,” Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward said. “At this level that’s what you need — a guy who can cause turnovers, get extra possessions for the offense and I think we have a lot of those guys on this defense.

“Hopefully, he can come in right away and do the same thing he did in college.” china nike

Milus said his first exposure to Adderley was after the NFL scouting combine. Milus attended Adderley’s pro day and was scheduled to work him out, but that was canceled after Adderley suffered a hamstring injury running the 40-yard dash.

Instead, the Chargers had Adderley in for a pre-draft visit, where he impressed the coaching staff.

“This kid is his own man,” Milus said. “He’s self-made. He decides he’s going to go to Delaware and he makes himself into one of the top safeties in the draft. I would think that when he takes this next step, he will have the same work ethic that he did at Delaware, bring that here and hopefully that will be enough to make him one of the better safeties at this level.”