Chargers safety up to speed
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.