The LA Chargers’ All-Pro safety has suffered a significant injury just two weeks before the anticipated start of the 2020 season.
The LA Chargers just can’t seem to catch a break.
Injuries were the most blatant culprit of last season’s five win disappointment for the team after making the playoffs in 2018.
Among those injured included safety Derwin James, the former Florida State product who played just five games in 2019 due to a foot ailment.
Now, James is banged up once again. But this time around, he won’t even get to play in five games. Instead, he’ll likely be watching the Bolts play from his home in 2020 (we’re assuming COVID-19 will likely reduce the number of players and coaches allowed to congregate on the sidelines during games).
The 2018 first round pick was originally slated to miss some games after reports first surfaced of a practice injury on Sunday, though no concrete timetable was given.
It appears that we now have that timeline, as James will require surgery to repair his torn meniscus. The rehabilitation process will take around six to eight months, which certainly rules out any chance of James playing in 2020.
With this devastating blow, the Florida State product will now have played in only five games over the last two seasons and for a total of 21 regular season contests over the first three years of his career, a lackluster number to say the least.
Perhaps more frustrating than seeing James go down with another injury is knowing that his potential for attaining greatness has been put on display once before, and that he’ll now have to wait another season to retake his place as one of the best in the game at the safety position.
In his only full season, as a rookie in 2018, James was one of the anchors of a lethal Chargers defense. The unit ranked third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric that year, which evaluates team defensive efficiency.
Individually speaking, the 2018 All-Pro produced tremendously that season, posting three interceptions, 3.5 sacks and 105 tackles across a full 16 game docket, plus two playoff games.
Essentially, James was an absolute force as the top play-maker of a notoriously stingy defensive backfield for the Chargers.
That’s a lot of production, and elite production no less, that the team will now be missing as they prepare for the upcoming season.
Making matters worse in the wake of this tough news is the general lack of depth that the Chargers have at the safety position.
Had the team had more sufficient talent at safety, it might have been possible to absorb some of the impact caused by James’ injury. Of course, there are very few safeties who could even come close to the level of production that the former Florida State Seminole has reached in his one fully healthy season.
Once again, this injury is a testament to the long-standing belief that having depth in the NFL matters. To understand why this is such a commonly-held idea in league circles, consider that the Chargers’ other starting safety is second year Delaware product Nasir Adderley, who only started four games in 2019. Not exactly encouraging.
Behind Adderley, the depth chart is dangerously thin for the team at safety. Names like Alohi Gilman, Rayshawn Jenkins and Romeo Finley are listed as the next available options at the position. None of those names should inspire a lot of confidence, but perhaps one can emerge from the pack alongside Adderley heading into week one.
We should note that Jenkins did play decently in 2019. Over 16 games started, the third year veteran accrued three interceptions and 54 tackles. No one will confuse those numbers with the ones Derwin James is capable of putting up when healthy, but Jenkins proved he was, at minimum, a serviceable option at the position.
Even so, serviceable doesn’t have the same ring to it as elite. The Chargers will most definitely miss James’ presence patrolling the defensive backfield for them in 2020,