Los Angeles Chargers Have Top-3 Safety Duo According to New Rankings

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Zoltan Buday, Pro Football Focus’ Senoit NFL Analyst, published his latest safety rankings, and the Los Angeles Chargers starting safety duo both landed in the top 20. Derwin James was ranked as the seventh best in the league, while Alohi Gilman landed at 18.

Here is what Buday wrote about the pair:

7. DERWIN JAMES JR.LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

While the talent is obviously there, James couldn’t put it all together last season, which prevents him from being mentioned here in the top tier of safeties.

The Chargers safety topped 1,000 snaps for the first time since 2018 despite missing one game. But while he ranked third among safeties in PFF overall grade (90.4) between 2018 and 2022, his 60.1 grade in 2023 was good for just 71st at the position.

18. ALOHI GILMANLOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Gilman had a breakout season in a contract year, which led to a new two-year deal with the Chargers this offseason. Despite missing three games with an injury, Gilman forced eight incompletions — on top of his two interceptions — on the season, which was tied for the third most among safeties. His 89.2 PFF coverage grade also ranked fourth at the position last season.

Los Angeles Chargers Safety Duo Among League’s Best

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets
Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There were only two other teams that had two safeties ranked ahead of the Chargers. Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams were ranked 2nd and 5th respectively and New England’s Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers were 9th and 11th. frat

James proved yet again why he has always been thought of as one of the best defenders in the league. What makes his 2023 impressive is the defense on a whole was a mess. To contradict Buday’s point first point about him, there is always a chicken or egg debate in those situations.

It was quite apparent toward the end of the Brandon Staley era that that side of the ball couldn’t tell its elbows from its ankles, yet James was able to put together a strong season.

Gilman was even more impressive in the bad situation and luckily for him he did so in the final year of his rookie contract. The Chargers secured the 27-year-old to a smart can-you-do-it-again 2-year, $10.12 million deal. Gilman is one of the few to survive the 2-fold churn at head coach.

Question’s at Depth

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals should receive honorable mentions, as they both have three safeties that landed in the top 32. The Vikings have Harrison Smith (16), Josh Mettelus (19), and Camryn Bynum (25). The Bengals have Geno Stone (20), Jordan Battle (29), and Vonn Bell (32).

Currently, the Chargers don’t have an experienced answer behind James and Gilman. AJ Finley and JT Woods played a combined 88 defensive snaps last season and the only other additions made to the positions are undrafted free agents. Although early returns from OTAs say Akeem Dent has shown flashes.

The Chargers will also tryout former Baltimore Ravens safety, Tony Jefferson this week, as he attempts to make a return to the NFL after retiring prior to the 2023 season.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
Credit: Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports