SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers’ secondary might look different Sunday when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Rookie coach Mike McCoy and defensive coordinator John Pagano say there’s a competition among the defensive backs after the Chargers allowed Alex Smith to throw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in San Diego’s 41-38 win Sunday.

“We’re taking it as the week goes right now and they’re all competing,” Pagano said Wednesday. “Really, in my eyes they’re all starters, because No. 1, everybody’s got to be accountable out there and everybody’s got to get ready to play.

“We’ve got a nice little competition going right now back there and how it shakes out at the end of the week and how we see it as a staff, we’ll see who comes out. It can be goal line, it can be sub situation where certain guys aren’t even out there in the package. It’s really not about who starts. It’s about getting 11 guys out there playing together at the same time.”

Cornerback Derek Cox was benched for the third time in four games, leading McCoy to say on Monday there would be a competition for jobs.

Neither coach gave any details of the competition. Only the first 20 minutes of practice is open, when the team stretches and does individual drills.

“It’s going good. They’re competing,” said McCoy, who’s loathe to offer specifics on almost everything.

San Diego (5-6) hosts Andrew Dalton and the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) on Sunday.

Cox was one of the team’s key free-agent signings in the offseason, signing a four-year contract for about $20 million, with about $10 million guaranteed.

“I think for the most part when you watch him on tape, most of his plays you see at the struggle point are big time plays,” Pagano said. “There’s times we’ve I’ve sat down with him and shown him plays on a consistent level, and that’s his deal. I think his breakdown, it’s not only each guy in the back end having that mental focus, but it’s also the consistency and playing every play out.

“We always talk about those guys have to have a short-term memory and come back and be able to respond when something like that happens because they are the last line of defense and when something bad happens there, it’s usually a big play. There were positives in that Kansas City game, but our bad is bad.”

Cox is listed on the depth chart as the starter at left cornerback, backed up by Richard Marshall. Shareece Wright is listed as the starter on the right side, with Johnny Patrick as his backup.

It wasn’t clear whether there was competition at safety as well as cornerback.

“You guys are looking at it a little too much,” safety Eric Weddle told reporters.

“We’ll see. I practice the same whether I’m competing for a job or not. I feel like I’ll be there every day. I just know the outside guys are playing; they’re rotating. We’re going to see who they put out there Sunday.

“Everyone’s in there and they’re practicing extremely hard and we’re pushing each other. We have a good attitude about it. No one’s sulking, no one’s down, no one’s feeling sorry for themselves. That’s good. It could have gone the other way. We talked about that, that we want to support each other and be behind each other.”

Chargers who didn’t practice Wednesday were left tackle King Dunlap (neck), tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring), center Nick Hardwick (neck), running back Ryan Mathews (hamstring), wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe, chest) and safety Darrell Stuckey (concussion). Linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand) was limited.


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