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Chargers HC Brandon Staley on J.C. Jackson's Week 1 struggles: 'Our entire group on defense needs to improve'

J.C. Jackson's return from injury got off to a dreadful start in L.A.

Like most of the Chargers defense, Jackson got torched during Sunday's 36-34 shootout loss to the Miami Dolphins. Following last season's patellar tendon tear in Week 7, Jackson played 42 snaps in Week 1 before being tethered to the sideline for the fourth quarter.

After Chargers head coach Brandon Staley noted Jackson's performance was "not very good" Sunday after the game, the coach spread the blame around on Monday.

"We're going to put the players out there who give us the best chance to win," he said via the team's official transcript. "What we see in practice and what we feel like gives us the best combination of players, that's what we're going to do. We also know that there is a progression and a ramp-up as he continues his return to play. He has proven that he can practice and practice consistently the whole way. Now, he has proven that he can play in a game against an outstanding team that is throwing the football. Now, we just have to keep building his confidence, rep by rep, and that is only going to come in time. Again, our entire group on defense needs to improve, not just J.C."

The big-money Jackson signing in 2022 has been a disaster for L.A. Even before the injury last season, the cornerback looked like an ill fit in Staley's defense, getting torched regularly. There was optimism heading into the season that another offseason in the system would bring better results.

We didn't see it Sunday, with Jackson allowing three catches on eight targets for 99 yards and a TD. Even on his best play, a jump-ball INT in the end zone, Jackson made the head-scratching decision to take the ball out of the end zone, returning it a measly four yards. The decision led to a sequence of events that ultimately cost the Chargers seven points.

Then there was the inexcusable end-of-half penalty Jackson incurred on a Hail Mary toss from Tua Tagovailoa that gave Miami three free points to end the half.

Of the 74 corners with at least 40 snaps graded by PFF heading into Monday, Jackson ranked 68th overall and 67th in coverage.

The entire Chargers defense got outgunned by Tua, Tyreek Hill and the rest of the Dolphins offense Sunday, but Jackson's play was particularly egregious given his contract and previous play. After the corner played inside leverage on a 35-yard Hill TD catch, Jackson didn't play a snap the rest of the game.

"Let me first state that there were a lot of guys that had tough days yesterday in the secondary," Staley said. "It would be one thing if it was one person in our secondary, and it would be that easy to point to somebody, but our secondary didn't play a good game yesterday, and it starts with me. I'm the one responsible for that and for putting them in better positions.

"It was J.C.'s first game back after a really tough injury and I thought that he was able to make it through most of the game. We kind of had some reps slotted for him in the game and I thought that -- in terms of what type of game it was, where there are 45 passes in the game -- I thought that, from a conditioning standpoint, he looked OK. It's getting out there, it's getting your rhythm and timing back. There are going to be a lot of things that he learns from. There were plenty of good plays in there and there are ones that we definitely need to correct. That is why we have to get back to work on Wednesday at practice."

The question for Staley is how many more chances Jackson will get to turn things around.

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