Derwin James doesn't hold back excitement about new Chargers defense without Staley

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Chargers are coming off one of the worst defensive stretches in franchise history even though the previous head coach was meant to be defensive-minded. Los Angeles ranked in the bottom 10 in points allowed per game in all three of Brandon Staley's seasons, ultimately holding the team back from any playoff success.

Not only did the defensive group as a whole struggle but star players saw reduced success under Staley. Joey Bosa couldn't stay on the field and Derwin James progressively got worse in Staley's defense.

James, who is one of the most talented safeties in the league, did make the Pro Bowl in each of Staley's two years but he progressively got worse with time. The star safety noticeably struggled in coverage at the end of 2022 (and in the lone playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars). In 2023, James took a huge step back and at times, looked like a liability.

The talent is obviously still there with James, he just wasn't being used properly. As soon as Staley was fired, and interim head coach Giff Smith utilized Smith near the line of scrimmage more, fans saw some of that production returning.

It is no secret that James was not reaching his full potential under Staley and he seems over the moon about the fact that he is playing under defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. When asked about the new defense, James literally compared it to Christmas (h/t Daniel Popper, The Athletic).

"James said having the opportunity to learn a new defense from a new coaching staff has felt 'like Christmas.' [...] When asked whether he will be moving around as much as he was under the previous coaching staff, James said, 'I feel like it will be different [...] I feel like I’ll be moved around,' James said. 'But I feel like it will be very detailed on an assignment that he wants me to have.'"

Derwin James sounds ecstatic that Brandon Staley isn't running the Chargers defense

To be fair, James came to Staley's support while it seemed like the locker room was slowly slipping away from him. James proclaimed that Staley was "his guy" and he would use any influence he had to keep the head coach around. That obviously didn't work.

Staley and James had a great relationship but it is clear that this is a true case of the grass being greener. James seemingly didn't realize what he was missing out on, or the fact that he was put in worse positions to succeed under the previous defensive scheme.

That is changing in LA and fans can expect there to be wholesale improvements on the defensive side of the ball. it won't happen overnight, as the team still has some depth chart holes on defense, but Minter has been a successful defensive mind everywhere he has coached.

Under Jim Harbaugh's guidance, the Chargers should be able to right the ship defensively and at the very least, not force Justin Herbert to overcome 27+ points in half of his games.

The first step to doing that is getting Derwin James back to form.