Atari Bigby, S #26
Hometown: Miami, FL
College: Central Florida
Experience: 7 years
Fans of the San Diego Chargers know all about free safety, Eric Weddle. The question for many of those same fans is just how one Atari Bigby will do in his first season with the Bolts.
While Bigby has more than half a decade of NFL experience, many wonder how the free agent strong safety will fit into San Diego’s defensive scheme. Will he provide the necessary coverage when a number of opposing QBs turn their attentions away from Weddle in hopes of hitting the big plays?
For Chargers’ fans unfamiliar with Bigby, the Central Florida University product has a Super Bowl ring to his name, tallying career marks in a stellar 2007 campaign with the Green Bay Packers. During that year, Bigby paced the Pack with 121 tackles and five INT’s. Despite an injury-plagued season in 2008, Bigby returned with four interceptions the next year, capturing a championship with Green Bay in 2010.
Last season was spent in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Seahawks, although not as the team’s top safety. Bigby did see action in 15 games, including time spent on the special teams unit. For his career, Bigby has 182 tackles and 10 interceptions to his name.
Although Bigby bounced around early in his career, (undrafted and signed by the Dolphins in 2005 then waived, also waived by the Jets) his play with the Packers for several years put him on the radar. With just a single season in Seattle, the Chargers decided to take a chance on him after losing Steve Gregory to New England.
So, after spending his best playing days to date in Green Bay, followed by a cup of coffee in Seattle, what can Bigby offer the Bolts this season?
One need only look at San Diego’s secondary in recent years to see that it has had it share of problems at times.
While Weddle has all but lived up to his hype (seven interceptions last season, First Team All-Pro honors), the inconsistent play of some other defenders on the corners has oftentimes led to San Diego getting burned in the passing game. Throw in the duties when need be of run defenders, and the Chargers have had more than their share of woes in the defensive backfield the last few seasons.
Those problems helped contribute to the fact that San Diego watched the playoffs from home last season for the second consecutive year.
As an overall defense last season, the Chargers ranked 32nd on third down and 28th in yards per pass attempt, finishing with an overall defensive ranking of 13th best in the league in passing yardage. For the season, the Chargers allowed a total of 377 points. Flash back just a year earlier, the Chargers had the top-ranked defense in the league.
In order to bring consistency to those numbers, along with give the Chargers a better chance to return to the playoffs, Bigby will need to return to close to where he was or at that point in his best years with Green Bay.
The experience and the desire are no doubt there; the question for Atari Bigby will be: Can he avoid injuries and return to the skill level of 2007?
Anything short of that would add yet one more factor suggesting the Chargers may miss the big dance again come January.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.