Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins shrugged and pointed at the teammate behind him.
“Jahleel might know,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “He’s been here the longest.”
Jahleel Addae, a sixth-year Chargers safety, didn’t look up from his locker when his name was mentioned. It appeared the leader of the Chargers’ secondary wasn’t ready to provide answers.
The following day, Chargers cornerback Desmond King shouted across the locker room for assistance.
“Ay, Jahleel!” King yelled. “Jahleel!”
Addae again didn’t respond as he continued to eat his food.
“I honestly don’t know,” King said before vaguely remembering details. “They had it before I got here. I know we had a teammate. He played at Houston.”
The history lesson the reporter was seeking had to be told from Addae.
How did the Chargers’ secondary become the “Jack Boys” and who coined the moniker?
“It happened in training camp last year,” Addae said in a low voice, as if he were going to reveal something that shouldn’t be talked about. “One of our young guys one time in a meeting (said the name) and we all collectively blew up with it.”
That young guy was the former University of Houston player King mentioned. Adrian McDonald, who played for the Chargers last year, was given the credit for naming the Chargers’ secondary the “Jack Boys.”
So what’s a “Jack Boy?” Jenkins knew the answer to that.
“A ‘Jack Boy’ is someone who comes in and takes stuff,” Jenkins said. “It’s really masking up, going in and take what’s ours, or whatever don’t belong to us. We’re taking whatever is on the field.
“If that ball in the air, we’re going to take it, and if you got the ball, we’re going to hit you.”
The “Jack Boys” stole the headlines in the first-round of the NFL playoffs last week, and now the Chargers’ versatile secondary will attempt to pull off the biggest heist in football — taking a playoff win from the mighty New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The Chargers were lauded nationwide for playing seven defensive backs in 58 of 59 defensive snaps in the wild-card win against the Baltimore Ravens to advance to Sunday’s divisional-round meeting with the Patriots.
The unique seven-DB personnel was risky. It was unexpected. It was high-risk, high-reward. It was so “Jack Boys.”
Going small worked to perfection against a Ravens team running the ball at a historic and successful pace. They matched power with speed, as the Chargers’ defense held the Ravens to 90 rushing yards and forced them into three turnovers.
Now the football world is wondering if the Chargers will use the same defensive scheme against legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Well, I think every week is different,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I learned through Larry Coyer when I was in Tampa about the importance of personnel placement. We talk about personnel placement every week. I think for that game, that was more of a decision we made for that game and every week is different.”
By 4 p.m. Eastern, while the Chargers were up 23-3 on the Ravens, Patriots coach Bill Belichick already had the seven “Jack Boys” memorized by name and knew their roles.
The Chargers moved Addae and rookie safety Derwin James to linebacker with Adrian Phillips, who’s listed as a safety, but has mostly played linebacker in recent weeks. King and fellow cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Michael Davis were joined in the secondary by Jenkins, who made his second start of the season.
Jenkins’ first start was in the regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos. That could have been where the Chargers first considered using the bold grouping.
By starting Jenkins in Denver, they surprisingly benched King, an All-Pro slot cornerback, for most of the first quarter. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn declined to elaborate on the decision at the time, only saying it was “a coach’s decision.”
Jenkins said those extra reps helped him in Baltimore.
“Tremendously because you can’t get that in practice,” Jenkins said before being interrupted by Davis.
“You know it’s Patriots week, right?” Davis asked.
The Chargers’ gamble will be remembered for a long time, but Davis was right. The team can’t afford to look back versus New England.
It’s unknown if the Chargers roll the dice for a second straight week, or they might not have many other options with an injury-depleted linebacker unit.
The Patriots could make them pay if the Chargers go small again, with big-body tight end Rob Gronkowski and dynamic running backs James White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.
Belichick, who’s regarded as the greatest coach ever, is at his best when he has an extra week to prepare. Throw in the Patriots’ eight-game home winning streak in the postseason, and the Chargers’ chances of completing the heist are bleak.
But Lynn and his Chargers are known for road upsets in a surprising fashion. They went for 2 to complete a 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 13 for one of their seven road wins in the regular season.
King said he’s on board with whatever game plan his coaching staff comes up with for the Patriots.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said King, whose Twitter handle reads @BlaqBadger14.
What’s the story behind the “Blaq Badger” nickname?
“I actually don’t know what that is,” said a laughing King.
One story at a time. One defensive scheme at a time.
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