Cornerback, San Diego Chargers
Born: June 18, 1991
Experience: Two NFL seasons
Jason Verrett’s breakout sophomore campaign ended with his first Pro Bowl nod, an honor he says was both humbling and motivating. The 25-year-old cornerback knows the next step toward shedding the “up-and-coming” label he’s often tagged with is to stay healthy for an entire season. Verrett takes umbridge with the criticism that his lack of height holds him back, discusses Melvin Gordon’s potential and confirms Philip Rivers’ penchant for trash talk.
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It was humbling. When I received the honor to be there, the first thing I was thinking was, Man, I’m in the Pro Bowl! You know, I grew up watching it. And just being able to be nominated for one of the top athletes at my position — it made me hungry. The second I got out there, just seeing all the athletes I grew up watching, and some I’ve played with, and then the old players like Eric Davis, Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice, just to name a few. Just being there, it motivated me to want to go back.
Those teams that are on a consistent basis of winning and consistently getting turnovers are going to be the guys who are going to be [considered the top CB duos]. Brandon Flowers’ season was cut short, so I think that was the reason why [we aren’t]. But when we’re on, we’re the top two corners out there, for sure.
In college, you’re only going to come across maybe two or three really good quarterbacks; in the NFL, everybody’s good.
When the quarterback is scared to throw your way. That’s why I feel they’re shutdown. And If [the quarterbacks] are throwing it, the chances of [their receivers] catching it are slim.
I feel [Darrelle] Revis has been a shutdown corner his entire career. Pat P. had a bounce-back season. Richard Sherman — his numbers speak for themselves. And I feel like I’m on the rise to being a shutdown corner.
Jason Verrett — who’s missed 12 games in his two-year career — acknowledges he’ll need to stay healthy for a full season to be recognized as one of the NFL’s top corners. (Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press)
When I’m out there on the field, I feel like I’m a dominant player. I just try to help my defense as much as possible. But until I play a full season, I don’t think I’m going to be recognized as a lockdown corner.
I play football — this ain’t basketball. Even though sometimes size and height can play a factor at certain areas on the field, at the end of the day, it’s all about competing.
I had older brothers and cousins that lived with us and used to try to beat me up, so that mentality of just not being scared of nobody kind of developed. And I just put those pieces all into football, and training and working out — put that whole mindset of just not being scared of nothing, so when I’m on that field, I’m ready for war.
I like Amari Cooper’s game, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Jeremy Maclin, Allen Robinson — there’s a list of receivers that I feel are challenging in their own ways. But I’m going against my guy Keenan Allen every day in practice, so I’m always ready for whatever.
Man, to be honest, a lot of people sleep on [Allen’s] speed down the field. But off the line, I still think he’s probably the quickest receiver in the league. It’s the best of the best. When we go at it, of course if I lock him down on a play I’m in his face. It’s definitely fun. The things that I see [from him] in practice — I rarely see [from other wideouts] in the game. You’re not going to see anybody do the releases he does off the ball. Getting that work on a day-to-day basis helps me get comfortable in my prep.
I think Key is more hungry because people are still sleeping on him, they’re still sleeping on the numbers he had when he was playing [last year]. … As a team, we want to go from worst to first, but everyone individually wants to be a top player at their position. So I think he’s going to show he’s a top-five receiver.
[Melvin Gordon is] another one of those guys who’s hungry. This training camp, as a defense, we’re going to get the best out of him. We need him to have that mentality that he had at Wisconsin. So, definitely, I expect Denzel [Perryman], Jahleel [Addae], all of them, to go head-up with him in the hole, you know, just to get him that toughness, that mindset, because I feel he could be a good back.
I think Phil’s competitiveness gets the most out of us as a defense because he’s a guy [that] if you pick him or you break up his pass, he’s throwing it right at you. So I think that makes you play with that chip on your shoulder and [makes sure you] don’t get complacent.
It happened in this past OTAs. I picked him off, and the very next play he threw it to Keenan, Keenan caught a back shoulder and [Rivers] was clapping like, “Yeah, J, I got you!” I love going against Phil.
To stay on the field. I think that’s my main goal — being able to play 16 games. Individually, yeah, I’d love to get another Pro Bowl, but my main goal is to be as dominant as I can on the field to get a ring for Phil.
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When [Brandon Mebane] first said it, of course it went over my head, ’cause it’s like, Bro, y’all got a championship team. But the potential he sees, it’s more so motivating to really live up to those expectations because you got a guy like him — he got a Super Bowl, he’s been in the league for 10-plus years. So he knows what it takes to get to that caliber of a team. Because Seattle at first when he was there wasn’t so good. The next thing you know, these last four, five years, they’ve been arguably one of the best defenses in the league.
Every week, I go out on the field right before pre-game. I get there two hours early. I go in the clothes that I have on. I just go to the middle of the field and say a prayer. And that’s something I’ve been doing since college.
The best advice I got from [Eric Weddle], was making sure that you know you belong every year. Don’t get complacent with your previous accolades or the success you had that year. So just ’cause I was a Pro Bowler last year, doesn’t mean I’ll be a Pro Bowler this year. That was something that when he first told me, it stuck with me.
Verrett says his physicality stems from being picked on by his older siblings and cousins when he was growing up. (Tom Hauck/Associated Press)
It’s high because as you can see, our division probably could be one of the top divisions in the league with all the talent that we have around. We know what it takes. Phil and [Antonio] Gates, they know what it takes to be at that level and to maintain it for so many years. Following their lead … if we can come together and have that “hunger” mentality and the “what it takes” mentality, it’s going to be good.
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