- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- One cornerback brings a junkyard mentality, with a full bag of tricks at his disposal to use on a receiver.
The other is one of the best athletes on the field, able to mirror routes with the ball skills of an elite pass-catcher.
Put together, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett give the San Diego Chargers one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. And although short in stature, both can match up with some of the most physical receivers in the league and still be effective.
Heading into his second season, the 5-foot-10 Verrett said he’s been leaning on his “big bro” Flowers for guidance this offseason and in training camp.
“He’s been carrying me along throughout this whole offseason and throughout OTAs,” Verrett said. “Being able to get my feet wet then and starting off in this training camp, everything has been going smooth.”
An eight-year veteran, the 29-year-old Flowers serves as a mentor for Verrett and the rest of San Diego’s young cornerback room. Considered the strength of San Diego’s defense this season, Flowers’ role is an important one in helping to build confidence and depth on the perimeter of the defense.
“The chemistry for some reason feels a lot better in that room,” Verrett said. “Everybody’s laughing and joking. There’s a lot more swag out there on the football field, so when we’re actually out there competing on the football field it’s more so fun than draining, wanting to go to practice than actually having to get through practice.
“When we go to practice we’re ready to turn up and make plays. I think that’s what's making this year a lot more fun.”
Getting Verrett ready to handle matching up with the No. 1 receivers in the NFL is at the top of Flowers' list of goals.
“Just going by physical standpoint, he has it,” Flowers said about Verrett. “He’s a great player. The only thing I can do is mold him on how to watch film and what to look for on film. The game is pretty much 75 percent mental anyway. So if I can do anything to help him gain a step on the field that way, that’s going to do nothing but uplift our team.”
At 5-foot-9, Flowers is considered one of the better corners in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in 2013 and leading the Chargers in interceptions last season with three. His presence alongside Pro Bowler Eric Weddle helped solidify a San Diego pass defense that held teams to just 214 passing yards per contest in 2014, ranking No. 4 in the NFL.
Verrett missed 10 games his rookie season due to a hamstring injury and a torn labrum in his left shoulder that required surgery, playing in a total of 207 snaps on defense. He entered last season recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery in May 2014.
But through the first three days of training camp this year, Verrett at times has looked like the most dominant player on the field defensively for the Chargers.
“He definitely looks fully recovered,” Flowers said. “He really bought into building himself up during the offseason. He’s a guy who loves to play the game. He doesn’t want to miss any games this year. He wants to play all 16 games. So he’s doing everything he can to try and make sure he can fulfill that purpose.”
Former San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, on hand to watch training camp practice Saturday, believes his fellow TCU product can be successful in the NFL if he can stay on the field.
“The biggest thing for him is health,” Tomlinson said about Verrett. “He does have the skill set. He has the quickness to change directions and break on the football. He has the hands to intercept the football. And I believe he has the smarts. He comes from a system at TCU where they play multiple coverages, and he understood how to play defense.
“Now, he gets here and I think what I’ve heard from [defensive coordinator] John Pagano is the kid has everything. He just has to be healthy.”
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