The LA Chargers played their first game without Brandon Staley on Saturday night and turned in a valiant effort in a loss. With no Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, or a real head coach, the Chargers were still able to go toe-to-toe with the Buffalo Bills.
There were not sweeping changes for the Chargers without Staley but the energy by the team was palpable. This was an energized locker room without Staley, which is another testament to how badly he lost the room before he was let go.
There was one significant change, however. Former All-Pro safety Derwin James was used in a much different way, almost exclusively playing near the line of scrimmage or in the slot. With this new agenda, James played a season-low in defensive snaps
It wasn't just that James played fewer snaps, he also wasn't on the field in key moments. The Buffalo Bills faced a third and eight with two and a half minutes left from the Chargers 45. Buffalo's 11-yard pass on third and eight effectively decided the game and James was watching from the sideline.
Offseason Derwin James trade feels very possible after Chargers' Week 16 loss
This is not just a one-off situation for Derwin James and the Chargers. Fans who have been paying close attention this season have seen a version of James that simply is not the same. It is safe to say that this has been the worst year of his career, and some fans are starting to get worried.
Could James rebound in the future with a new head coach and defensive coordinator? Absolutely. But the fact that the Chargers played him a career-low in snaps a week after Staley was fired is very telling. There might be a bigger issue at play here.
For the most part, James still has a high profile throughout the league. The Chargers wouldn't be able to get a first-round pick for him, but the team could add serious draft capital while also saving money in the future. The Chargers would actually have to pay an additional $1.46 million against the cap next season, per Over The Cap, but they would also get out of the end of James' deal.
If trading James would have saved the Chargers money then it would be a near-guarantee. But with a new head coach and new front office coming into LA, this usage of James could be a warning sign about his future with the Chargers.