COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Desmond King is showing signs of developing into a complete player for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The second-year cornerback, who was used mainly as a blitzer last season, is being used more in man coverage while also getting some opportunities on special teams as a returner.
King has three interceptions in the Chargers’ past three games. He is the AFC’s defensive player of the week after returning an interception 42 yards for a touchdown in last Sunday’s 25-17 win at Seattle . It is the second straight year that King has had a pick-six (he had a 90-yard interception for a TD last season at Dallas).
He is one of eight players in the conference with three picks as the Chargers (6-2) travel to Oakland on Sunday looking to extend their five-game winning streak.
“He doesn’t have the height, the weight, the speed and all that, but if you look at Desmond he’s always been a very productive player and that’s not going to change when you get to the NFL. It’s just a pattern of success,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
King won the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top corner, when he was a junior at Iowa in 2015. He returned for his senior season but wasn’t drafted until the fifth round last year.
King has lined up as a slot corner the past two seasons, but he has improved this year in man coverage. He said he hardly played that at Iowa due to the scheme but that it is something he worked on during the offseason.
“I feel like I am doing a pretty good job with that this year,” King said. “It’s not that much harder than transitioning from a zone team.”
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has noted that King has always been a physical player who can tackle in space, but that his comfort level with the defense has grown, which has allowed him to be more consistent.
“He’s anticipating and he’s making plays. There’s a couple plays that took place (against Seattle) that it wasn’t really his responsibility, but he identified it and played a pass and eliminated a big play for us,” Bradley said.
King was used plenty as a blitzer last season and he had four sacks. First-round pick Derwin James is being used as a blitzer this season but Bradley said he might still use King in that role during the second half of the season.
King has also been used more on punt returns due to wide receiver Travis Benjamin being injured for most of the season. Lynn said this week that with Benjamin finally healthy, he is planning on using both players.
With last week’s score, King joined Roy Williams as the only defensive backs in NFL history to have at least four sacks and two INTs for TDs their first two years. He also doesn’t mind being challenged covering opposing teams’ slot receivers.
“I feel like playing inside is harder than playing outside. A lot of people say you need size and speed to play outside but anyone can play it,” King said. “As long as we are having success, have your cover guys cover and have your blitzers blitz.”
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