Chargers happy with progress of first-rounder Derwin James
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Chargers rookie defensive back Derwin James has been steadily improving throughout training camp, but the next two weeks should be a better indicator of how much the first-round pick will be able to contribute this season.
Los Angeles faces potent quarterbacks and passing attacks in its next two games. The Chargers host Seattle and Russell Wilson on Saturday while New Orleans and Drew Brees will be in for two days of joint workouts next week before their game on Aug. 24.
“Every week is going to be a challenge. You’re competing against the best, so that pretty much tells you where you stand,” said James, the 17th overall selection in this year’s draft.
James should expect to see plenty of snaps Saturday. In last week’s exhibition opener at Arizona, he was on the field for 29 plays in a 24-17 loss to the Cardinals. That was the most among defensive backs and tied for second-most on defense.
He also saw more reps during training camp practices this week as some of the veterans got rest days. He had two pass breakups on deep routes during 11-on-11 drills on Wednesday.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has lauded James for his high football intelligence, and said he has picked things up pretty quickly in the classroom. But Bradley notes that what James is going through right now is common with all rookies.
“Now, it’s coming out on the field and putting it together. He’s in that phase right now, but it’s coming,” Bradley said. “If he makes a mistake, he knows right now. It’s just that next step, which you see sometimes with young guys. You have to work not to think anymore, and he’s kind of at that stage.”
Bradley is playing James in packages similar to what he had the past three seasons at Florida State. He is lining up at safety in base packages but is also seeing some time at linebacker in nickel or dime situations.
James notes, though, that his biggest adjustment is knowing different formations, since most college teams run more of a spread with some up-tempo. James said Bradley’s system is simpler than what he had in college.
“He doesn’t ask you to do too much. It’s pretty self-explanatory what he’s teaching us,” James said. “It allows us to play fast. You have to really do your job. It’s less work, but it’s more efficient work.”
Wide receiver Mike Williams, who went against James while at Clemson, said he hasn’t noticed James struggling during practices, especially when the two are matched up against each other in drills.
“He goes out there and makes a lot of plays. He has a big body back there at safety and isn’t afraid of contact. He wants to hit you,” Williams said.
James said he is anxious to take part in the Chargers’ first home game Saturday at StubHub Center, but he is still focusing on continuing to improve his technique and trying to eliminate penalties with three weeks remaining until the season opener on Sept. 9 against Kansas City.
“There’s not a lot of room for error. One step wrong and a guy is going the distance. You really have to hone in on what they’re telling you and what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s much different than high school where I can get away with a lot of stuff because I was more athletic than most guys. Now you have to come out here and do what you need to do.”