Los Angeles Chargers’ rookie Derwin James has been the energizer of the ‘Bolts defense this season and is separating himself as the favorite for 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
There has been a glaring hole in the Chargers’ defensive personnel all season long. Standout pass rusher Joey Bosa has missed all of 2018 with a nagging foot injury, and there seems to be no indication as to when he will return.
Since entering the league in 2016, Bosa has been the driving force of the Chargers’ defense, recording 23 sacks in 28 career games. His absence was expected to hinder the Bolts’ defense greatly because he is one of the best game-changing defenders in the NFL.
Insert rookie safety Derwin James.
After a shaky start to the season, the Chargers’ defense is molding into an above-average unit without Bosa. And the Bolts can thank their 2018 first-round draft pick for their overall improvement. James’ brute physicality, spectacular tackling and infectious energy have made him both the leader of this defense and the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of The Year this season.
The Florida State alum has the numbers to justify it. James leads the Chargers with 62 combined tackles and 42 solo tackles, a representation of how he has done in that department in 2018. Getting to the quarterback has not been an issue for the safety, as his 3.5 sacks this season are the highest among all NFL defensive backs this season.
James’ sack total is also second-highest on the team behind defensive end Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks), and the safety is on pace for seven sacks in his rookie campaign. The Winter Haven, FL. product has recorded one interception and seven passes defended in his first year as a pro.
The production from James has been outstanding in 2018. This unit has not boasted a defensive back of this caliber since Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle called San Diego home for nine years. What makes James’ addition to the defense even sweeter is he was selected 17th overall, considered one of the best steals of the draft by Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus.
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“Christmas came seven months early to Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco when former Florida State S Derwin James, our second-best defensive player in the 2018 draft class, fell into his lap at pick No. 17 of the first round.”
Gayle added that James’ defensive versatility as a run and pass defender is a vital attribute in today’s NFL. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety has displayed exactly that as a rookie. His coverage skills are solid, but what he can do as an open-field tackler, run-stuffer and pass-rusher out of the backfield are extremely valuable for the long-term success of this defense.
Chargers fans have become accustomed to seeing James ramp up his speed when closing in on a ball carrier and blasting through that player. The rookie safety has electrified the Bolts’ defense this year, and it will be stunning if he is not named the 2018 DROY once the season is over.