First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Two Glendale natives look to contribute to their NFL rosters after surviving the league-mandated roster cutdown to 53 players this week.
Defensive back Michael Davis, a Glendale High School alumnus who has spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Chargers, will likely see the field as one of the team’s top corners to start the season next week. Meanwhile, rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, a Glendale native who attended St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday as he mends a hamstring injury that has nagged him since the spring and may see the field by Week 5.
Davis, who joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young in 2017 and is in his second year of a three-year $25.2-million extension, reportedly distinguished himself at training camp this season after seemingly falling down the depth chart this year.
The Chargers, now in year-two of defensive-minded coach Brandon Staley, signed corner J.C. Jackson to an $82.5-million deal in March after he spent four years with the Patriots. Last season, Jackson — also undrafted — netted eight interceptions, including one pick-six, and was named to the Pro Bowl and second-team All Pro. Veteran slot corner Bryce Callahan also joined the Chargers this offseason.
Last season, Davis started and played 14 games at corner, mostly opposite then-rookie Asante Samuel Jr., and logged 54 total tackles and a team-high 12 broken-up passes. He notably made two fumble recoveries in the Week 3 contest against division rival Kansas City — each of which led to touchdowns — but made only one interception all season.
The Chargers last year become an offensive powerhouse led by second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, but defensive struggles resulted in a 9-8 record — capped off by a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Raiders that kept them out of the playoffs — and left them last in the NFL on third-down stops.
However, Davis’ training camp performance has him in contention with Samuel Jr. for the No. 2 starting job, according to Staley. Chargers team media specifically highlighted Davis in its recap of the 14th day of training camp, hailing a third-and-12 pass break-up that was followed by an interception. The week prior, Davis told the Los Angeles Times he felt like he had a better grasp of Staley’s defensive scheme this year. He had two tackles in the preseason, both against the Rams, and Jackson’s recent ankle surgery will likely yield early opportunities for Davis to make his case to start.
“Those guys are competing. They’re both competing well. We feel like they’re both starting-caliber corners,” Staley told Chargers team media, referring to Davis and Samuel Jr. “We feel like, with our top four corners, that we have four starting-caliber NFL corners.”
Dulcich, a third-round draft pick out of UCLA, tweaked his hamstring in spring organized team activities and entered training camp on limited schedule as he recovered. After starting individual drills about a week in, the athletic pass-catcher did log some team drills before aggravating the injury and sitting out the rest of camp and preseason. After initially making the 53-man roster this week, he was placed on injured reserve, where he must remain for at least four weeks. (Dulcich was listed on active roster initially to eschew an NFL rule that would have kept him on IR all season if he was placed there during preseason.)
Broncos General Manager George Paton — a La Cañada Flintridge native — told USA Today he didn’t believe Dulcich needs all four weeks to recover, but was being cautious and conservative with the rookie, whom the team hopes can synch up with quarterback Russell Wilson.
As division rivals, the Chargers and Broncos play each other twice a season, with the Chargers hosting the Week 6 matchup at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 17.