- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- Tom Telesco said watching game tape of the newest San Diego Charger, No. 25 overall selection Jason Verrett, reminded him of another defensive impact player he had a hand in drafting.
“Maybe it’s between his hair,” the Chargers general manager said, “or maybe it’s his playing style, but he looks like Bob Sanders sometimes flying around, something we had [in Indianapolis] a long time ago.
“And that stuff is contagious. And the fact that he’s also extremely fast and quick with ball skills, it’s just a nice package for us.”
Just like Sanders, at 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, Verrett packs a wallop in a small package. He is the first cornerback less than 5-foot-10 to get drafted in the first round since Buffalo selected Antoine Winfield in 1999.
But Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said Verrett plays bigger than his size.
“Size doesn’t matter to him,” McCoy said. “He’s a tough, physical football player who’s very good in coverage.”
Verrett will have to be good in coverage against bigger receivers in the AFC West such as Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. San Diego's pass defense finished No. 29 in the NFL last season, giving up an average of 259 passing yards a contest.
Verrett is familiar with the city, having spent the lead-up to the draft working out at EXOS, an athletic training facility in Carlsbad, Calif.
Verrett said he stayed in an apartment near Qualcomm Stadium, and actually drove by the facility a few times a day dreaming about what it would be like to play for the Chargers. Verrett also corralled his first interception in college against San Diego State at Qualcomm.
Verrett follows in the footsteps of another pretty good player from TCU, former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, selected No. 5 overall in the 2001 draft by San Diego.
“He’s a guy that I talked to plenty of times before my senior season,” Verrett said about Tomlinson. “He’s somewhat of a legend at TCU, but also a legend in San Diego. So it’s a blessing to be able to follow in his footsteps and be drafted in the first round.”
Verrett said he has no concerns about his ability to defend bigger receivers in the NFL.
“It’s all about moving my feet and playing a lot smarter on the field,” Verrett said. “I played against a lot of guys that were 6-2, 6-3 and I didn’t really try and get my hands on them too much. Once the ball is in the air, I am definitely being competitive.”
McCoy said Verrett will have to compete for a starting job.
“We’re going to let everyone come in and compete,” McCoy said. “And we’re looking to find any way we can to improve the football team. That’s what we tell the players.”
One thing that could keep Verrett from starting is he is rehabilitating after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in March. Even with the injury, Verrett impressed scouts at the combine benching 225 pounds 19 times.
Telesco said the plan is for Verrett to be ready for training camp.
“We’ll see,” Telesco said. “I wouldn’t put a time table on it yet because we still have a number of months to go. But everything is headed in the right direction.”
Telesco said the Chargers had inquiries from other teams to trade down, but decided to stay at No. 25 with Verrett still on the board.
2dEric D. Williams