The Chargers Plan After Derwin James Injury
All was going well at Los Angeles Chargers training camp. Philip Rivers was throwing crisp passes and Joey Bosa was terrorizing the poor left tackle assigned to block him. All was well in the Chargers camp until safety Derwin James suffered a stress fracture in his foot.
It is now being reported that James will have foot surgery and his timeline to return is in the 3-4 months range.
#Chargers S Derwin James will undergo surgery on his foot following evaluations of the stress fracture in his fifth metatarsal, sources say. He’s expected to be sidelined around three months. The surgery will be performed by noted foot and ankle specialist Robert Anderson.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 17, 2019
Luckily, for the Chargers, they have a lot of talented depth at the position that may be able to fill the void during James’ absence, but this is still a major loss for a team that is continually hindered by the injury bug.
Desmond King, one of the top-rated corners in the game last season according to Pro Football Focus, has tremendous versatility, and so it is expected that he will be featured at safety in many defensive packages in the interim.
Adrian Phillips is another name to watch for. He has shown out during training camp and will definitely be a player that will be getting some action on Sunday’s. He is no Derwin James, but the 5th year player is very capable of filling in and shining in this Gus Bradley defense.
Second-round pick Nasir Adderley is being eased into his transition to the NFL, but this may speed up the process and his maturation just a bit. Currently, he is listed 4th on the Chargers unofficial depth chart due to missing most of training camp thus far with a hamstring issue. Once healthy, he will be eased into the rotation, but even with the absence of James, the depth and ability of King and Phillips will not rush this process.
Another option is to sign a free agent who can fill the void. This player must be adaptable to multiple positions because the Chargers defense relies on two hybrid safeties. Below are a few options they may look at in the next few days.
There are a couple of concerns for signing Berry. The first concern is his fit within the Chargers defensive system. The Chargers currently rely on two hybrid defensive backs who can play all over the field. Unfortunately, Berry is more of a traditional safety who has not played near the line of scrimmage as much as the Chargers demanded of James. This does not mean he can’t fit the system, but history is not on his side.
The second concern is his health. He has dealt with Achilles and heel injuries which have significantly affected his playing time the past two seasons. He also struggled in the AFC Championship Game last year.
However, when he is at his best there are few in the NFL who can compete with him. He was named All-Pro twice after beating cancer a few years ago. He has a unique ability to inspire his teammates and that may be what the Chargers defense is missing.
He hasn’t recorded a sack since 2013 but he may be a good quick fix in the short term for the Chargers. He has experience at cornerback, free safety and strong safety. His expansive knowledge of the defensive backfield will surely be useful against the high powered passing attacks of the AFC West. His best days are behind him but his knowledge of multiple positions may help the Chargers in James’ absence.
Another player with experience in multiple positions, Parker was a decent role player for the Chiefs last year. He recorded two interceptions, one sack and 77 tackles in 2018. He has recorded 11 interceptions, eight sacks and 395 tackles since joining Kansas City in 2013. While he isn’t the same caliber as Derwin James, Parker could still provide a steady presence for the Chargers.
Free Agent Or Option Within?
The Chargers are expected to have around $8 million in cap space to play with when all final cuts are made, so a free-agent acquisition is possible, however, the combination of Desmond King, Adrian Phillips, and Nasir Adderley may be all the team needs to get through the first few months of the season until James can return.
While these options within the franchise may help in the short term, the Chargers will be lacking in depth soon enough. They would be wise to at least consider signing a free agent. Either way, they will greatly miss James and his myriad of talents.