Los Angeles Chargers Focus on Utilizing Derwin James Effectively in 2024. Step One, Clone Him

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator, Jesse Minter was asked after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp about how his offseason plan for Derwin James was going and what he has gained in his time working with the seventh-season veteran.

“I’m going to try to, over the summer, clone him and try to make three of him.” Minter joked, “I mean he does everything well so I think it’s still ‘where can he most be effective’ in a certain game, in a certain type of matchup. He can do it all.”

James’ versatility is certainly one of his best abilities, but it has led to his usage wildly swinging year over year as defensive coordinators have come and gone. Minter is now the fourth coordinator to attempt to maximize his skill set. Minter recognizes he can’t simply throw everything at James all at once and also how a versatile player presents a conundrum that only cloning would fix.

How Will The Los Angeles Chargers Use Derwin James in 2024

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Chargers
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“As I’ve said before you got to be careful of not overloading him. He’s picked up everything. He’s picked up multiple positions. He’s repped at a bunch of different positions. There’s times where he’s really good in back and, man, he’s an elite tackler and so sometimes when that guy’s coming out of the middle of the field as your last line of defense you feel pretty good about it. And then there’s times where he’s blitzing off the edge and he’s causing havoc. There’s times where he’s locking up a slot receiver or locking up a tight end.

The Chargers’ former 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft entered the league with a sky-high projection and has in spots lived up to those. But James has never found consistency between injuries and massive changes within the defensive scheme.

In a way, James came into the league at a time when coaches weren’t sure how to use his skill set correctly. There have been other instances that players like him have never been utilized correctly. Isaiah Simmons comes to mind.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
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But there is one team that has figured it out. The Baltimore Ravens have turned Kyle Hamilton into the first truly modern safety. It is an ecosystem in which Minter is familiar, having worked there for three seasons and runs a similar defense to Mike McDonald, who was the one to unlock Hamilton’s true potential.

Ultimately, that is likely how the Chargers will gameplan Derwin James this season. His plan is to put James on the level of Hamilton.

“I think he has an opportunity to, as I told him,’ Minter said, “‘let’s restate the claim as you being one of the best safeties in football.'”

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
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