The mantle has been passed.
When long-time defensive team captain Eric Weddle moved on to sign with the Baltimore Ravens in March of this year, it was the end of an era.
Now, the onus is on Jahleel Addae to take on a more prominent role in the secondary. The question is, can he?
In the offseason, Addae signed a one-year RFA (restricted free agent) tender for $2.553 million. Last year, the strong safety racked up 65 tackles and a sack. Four years in San Diego have given him 151 tackles, three sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
An undrafted free agent, Addae has been a part of the Bolts’ secondary longer than anyone else currently back there. He and defensive backs coach Ron Milus joined the Chargers in 2013. So, Addae should have a better grasp than the rest of that position group when it comes to what Milus is striving for out of his players in the secondary.
One of the challenges he faces is staying on the field. Now entering his fourth year with the Bolts, Addae has only managed to have one complete 16-game season (in 2013 as a rookie). Since then, he has missed parts of the last couple of campaigns with injuries to his ankle and hamstring. Let’s not forget there were two concussions, also.
Dubbed “The Hitman” by his fellow Chippewas at Central Michigan University, the ferocious hits that Addae has put on opponents have not only rattled them, but No. 37 himself. One such hit occurred in the October 23, 2014 game in Denver — a helmet-to-helmet collision with Broncos running back Juwan Thompson; the aftermath was disconcerting to many who witnessed Addae’s behavior. The safety is clearly seen experiencing some type of reaction to that impact. Though all on-field evaluations were negative, he was diagnosed with a concussion two days later. He did not miss any playing time.
Fast forward to 2016 and the expectations that Addae has for himself now that No. 32 is no longer across from him. Throughout OTAs, he has realized that he can take the knowledge learned from lining up opposite Weddle, use it to step up his game and become the leader that the young guys coming in need him to be. The offseason addition of former Colts’ safety Dwight Lowery should make that challenge seem less daunting.
Maturity and experience have also brought recognition of the example he needs to set with respect to those hits that he is so well-known for; putting himself on the bench due to injury as a direct result of one is not in his plans. As he recently stated, “I’m a physical safety. I love contact. But I know that I have to play smart. I’ve been hearing that since I’ve come into the league…My biggest goal is to play in all 16. And I feel I’ll be able to do that.”
Will Addae lead the secondary in helping the team overcome a forgettable 4-12 season? I believe he can. It is on him now to mentor the youth movement and be the voice of experience.
Thanks for reading!