Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
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Every once in a while a great safety comes along that completely breaks the mold. We saw it back in 2004 when Sean Taylor blew us away with his physicality.
We kind of witnessed it again when Eric Berry and Earl Thomas brought their ball hawking abilities to the league. However Derwin James is different than all of those other guys because he’s so versatile. Last year the Los Angeles Chargers lined him up all over the place and it seemed like James excelled whether he was deep, in the box, in the slot, or on the edge. Which is rare because usually a player is only good in one of those phases of the game. That wasn’t the case with the rookie and his numbers prove it. James recorded 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions in his first campaign and it’s rare that you see someone hit the ground running like that. Obviously it’s possible because James has some exceptional instincts and the athleticism to execute his reads. And when you add that to all of the other talented players Los Angeles has it makes for a very dangerous defense. People forget Joey Bosa was hurt for most of last season but that group still held up well (9th ranked in total defense). It’s because James came in and minimized a lot of their weaknesses and they should be even better with a healthy Bosa and the additions of Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderly. Collectively all of those pieces will be demoralizing for opposing teams and James should build on the momentum he was able to establish in 2018. He’s not as big of a hitter as Taylor was but Derwin James is probably better when it comes to making tackles for a loss. Not to mention he can blitz and get after the quarterback. So it’s almost like having another linebacker who can also cover like Berry and Thomas (who were free safeties). The blend of it all is what makes James who he is.
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Derwin James can change the way the safety position is played forever.