Charg­ers safety up to speed

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FROM THE COVER - By Joe Reedy

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Der­win James was one of the na­tion’s top de­fen­sive play­ers the past three sea­sons at Flor­ida State. He is quickly es­tab­lish­ing the same rep­u­ta­tion in his rookie sea­son in the NFL.

The Charg­ers safety leads Los An­ge­les in tack­les (30) and sacks (3.0) go­ing into Sun­day’s game. James, who was the 17th over­all pick in this year’s draft, is also the first de­fen­sive back since the Jets’ Kerry Rhodes in 2006 to have three or more sacks and an in­ter­cep­tion in the first four games of a sea­son.

“I feel like I’m right where I need to be at,” James said. “I’m do­ing good in cov­er­age but there are other small things that I can still get fixed.”

James was con­sid­ered one of the most ver­sa­tile de­fen­sive play­ers in col­lege be­cause of his cov­er­age skills and abil­ity to rush the quar­ter­back. Charg­ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley is putting those skills to good use.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound James leads NFL rookie de­fen­sive backs in sacks, passes de­fensed (six) and quar­ter­back pres­sures (seven). James has mostly lined up at free safety, but he has also played at slot cor­ner and line­backer.

James played mostly safety in Week 1 against the Chiefs and two weeks later against the Rams. In the other two games, against the Bills and 49ers, whose of­fenses aren’t as dy­namic, he was used at line­backer and safety.

An­other fac­tor in James’ strong start has been his con­fi­dence. He ad­mit­ted he didn’t feel that at times as he was still work­ing his way back from an in­jury to his left knee that oc­curred in Flor­ida State’s sec­ond game in 2016 and kept him out the rest of that sea­son.

“I was 100 per­cent once I came back but the flow and speed of the game is faster,” he said.

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