So the Chargers have opened up the season by going 1-2 through the opening three weeks. It’s been a tough schedule as it’s transpired, with the Bolts playing the top two teams in the league in the Chiefs and the Rams so far.
Not quite the start that fans were hoping for. The team doesn’t seem to be of the calibre of those who will by vying for the Superbowl when we flip the calendar over to 2019.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom just yet! It’s still early days and next up is a short handed 49ers squad who just lost their star QB. Also, there’s one guy who is giving Chargers fans a new star to talk about and that is rookie safety, Derwin James.
James is already being talked about as one of the better safeties in the league and it’s showing. PFF also has him rated as the highest rated defensive rookie for the season so far with a grade of 87.7 (Cleveland’s Denzel Ward is 2nd with 81.9, for comparison).
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Even though he is only three games into his NFL career, James is already confirming he was the steal of the first round at 17th overall. So what is all the excitement about?
You just have to switch on any Chargers game from this season and you won’t have to wait too long to see #33 making a play.
I feel the first thing that hits you with Derwin is just how fast he plays. Firstly, and very obviously, this shows that James is an unbelievable athlete but also, it shows his intelligence and football IQ is off the charts. If you understand the system you’re playing in and your role within it, you just go out and and play football, you don’t make mis-steps or hesitate; which you do see with a lot of rookies early in their career but the mental side of the game looks easy for James so far.
Good coaching is also a huge help and I feel that Gus Bradley is doing a nice job of putting James in a position to succeed so far this season.
We see James line up in a variety of spots on the Chargers defense. Due to his aforementioned athletic ability, football savvy and versatility, James can be blitzing off the edge, playing as a single high safety or in what I would consider this best position; playing as a box safety and giving the Bolts a much needed boost in the run game.
This, of course is exactly what we saw James do at Florida State. He is that Swiss army knife safety that all teams seem to want at the moment in the NFL.
And what is the result of putting a top player in the position to succeed? Well the stats sheet get full of numbers and that’s exactly what’s happening here. So no shock that the former Seminole is coming up with impact plays.
So far through three games we’ve seen James come through with big third down run stuffs, sacks, tackles for loss deep in the backfield and a touchdown saving interception in the end zone. What’s most impressive to me is the variety; the Chargers have a great weapon on defense for years to come and fans should be overjoyed about that.
However to me, the most stand out aspect of how the Chargers are using James is simply how often they’re using him! Derwin is barely coming off the field having played 98% of defensive snaps this season. James kicked off his career playing 100% of the the defensive snaps against Kansas City and in the most recent game against the Rams, James repeated the feat. This shows James has already earned a high level of trust from the coaching staff and also that they feel he’s doing his job to a high level.
High level play all over the field and splash plays… Just what you want from first round rookies, right? I am overjoyed but one thing I’m not is surprised because Derwin James has come to Los Angeles exactly as advertised.
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90