It has been a rough start for the career of Chargers free safety Nasir Adderley since being drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft. Some analysts considered him as a steal of the draft coming out of Delaware. His ball-hawking skills and playing at an FCS maybe got overlooked.
So far, in his first two seasons, that hasn't come to fruition yet. There is hope, mainly because of all the circumstances.
Adderley suffered a hamstring injury four games into his rookie season, then placed on IR, so his year was over. In his second year, he felt like he was playing catch up, trying to learn everything, plus he was inserted into the starting lineup after Derwin James suffered a knee injury in training camp.
"Biggest takeaway adjusting to just making sure my body would just in tip-top shape and coming out with dealing with injuries just from my senior year up until now," said Adderley. "I feel great now, but I think just managing that without the biggest hurdle, but I'm super excited and good. I feel great."
This is the first offseason in quite a while that Adderley feels healthy.
The circumstances that have changed for Adderley and the Chargers are quite simple. They have a coaching change with Brandon Staley taking over the team. Staley has a history of being able to put players in positions to succeed and get the most out of them.
That may even mean moving him around the field, which works to Adderley's strength.
"I really hone in on just having versatility like I want to be somebody that I know it brings value to the team with me being able to play multiple positions," explained Adderley. "That's something the whole DB room we're focusing on just so we don't give any tails at all to the offense of what we might be doing. So just having that flexibility is going to be huge for us."
When Staley got hired, he changed the terms of safety/cornerback to defensive back and outside linebacker/defensive end to edge rusher. He has a vision for this defense that could help Adderley.
Staley mentioned after the draft that he loved the versatility that Adderley brings to his defense. At Delaware, he made incredible interceptions that showed his ball skills and big playability. Staley helped a player like John Johnson III emerge last season in his system.
"That's always something you want to hear," said Adderley about what his head coach said about his versality. "What I try to do as a player, I try to make sure I'm versatile; I can cover, I can be physical and stuff like that. That is something I work on. It's definitely good to hear that he sees that and that it is what he's looking for in a safety."
Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill has a history of helping develop defensive backs. He is a former defensive back turned coach. He was the Denver Broncos secondary coach for two seasons, so he was with current Charger Chris Harris Jr. for a couple of seasons. He also helped with the development of all-pro safety Justin Simmons, cornerback Bryce Callahan, and numerous others.
"The great thing about it is he's healthy," said Hill. "He's moving around. He asks great questions in the meeting. He's able to take the meeting to the field. You see a leadership role from him. He's taking control in the back end, making all the adjustment calls. We're happy where Nas is at right now, and we're going to continue to put him in spots where he can express those things so that he can develop those things as we move forward."
Adderley has a lot of raw talent. When he first came into the league during his first OTA's head coach Anthony Lynn had to talk to him about being so aggressive during practice. Lynn said he would rather tell a player to slow down than speed up.
That is the only way he knows how to play.
"If anyone knows me, I'm an aggressor, and I want to fly around out there," said Adderley. "I think I'm going to be able to have a lot more opportunities to do that. I'll be moving around a lot."
During the offseason, he experienced new things like marriage and being a dad. He also had to learn a new defensive scheme. So, when he got to work, he knew exactly what he wanted to work on.
"Mainly just versatility, durability those are some big things I wanted to focus on," explained Adderley. "Because I want to be the type of safety that can cover 170-180 pound receiver and also match up with bigger tight ends. That's the type of safety I aspire to be, and that's what I work on."
He wants to be an all-around defensive back that won't be put at a disadvantage if asked to blitz, drop back, or cover certain positions. He wants to be the full package for the defense.
Adderley will also be lining up, most of the time, next to one of the best young safeties in the NFL in James. They are starting to get comfortable with one another. James said they are communicating well, and they are having fun.
"You already see us feeding off of each other right now, even just in the weight room or during the walk-through," explained Adderley. "We're just very energetic. Having him back is definitely a huge advantage for us, just as a communicator. He's a great leader. He's an easy person to want to play for, so I'm definitely glad to have him back. Seeing everything he's been through, I'm excited for him."
This a fresh new start for Adderley. He might have made some mistakes in the past, but he has a unique opportunity. The Bolts defense has a lot of young players who seem to be feeding off Staley and Hill's defensive scheme.
He knows this new opportunity could benefit him in the long run.
"To put it plain, I'm just very, very excited. It's different for us," said Adderley. "It's something a lot of us, maybe, had similarity from college, but it's a very exciting defense. Just seeing how we're competing in the classroom, I think the sky is the limit."