Bolt Down

As the 2017 college football season was set to begin, I had my eyes on a kid from Florida State named Derwin James. He was getting ready to return to the field after missing the rest of the 2016 season with a meniscus tear and cartilage damage. He came back stronger than ever the following year playing in all 12 games for the Seminoles, recording 84 tackles with two interceptions and 11 passes deflected. He decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and ended up being drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers. After a stellar rookie season, he’ll be sidelined to begin his second season in the league with a stress fracture in his foot.

You talk about a guy coming in as a rookie and having an immediate impact, that’s exactly what this kid did. He played in all 16 games, he led the team in tackles with 105, had 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and 15 pass deflections which helped him earn All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in his rookie season. If I had three words to describe Derwin as a football player, it’d be smart, fast and physical. He’s a longer safety standing at 6’2 with wide but powerful strides. He’s the type of football player that you want to play with and not against. His tackling is textbook. He squares up, gets low and then attacks. He’s one of those players you must keep an eye on because you never know what he’s going to do. He’ll cover guys in the flat, then make his read to go for the football. he covers ground, moves sideline to sideline like a linebacker, loads himself in the box and blitzes like a pass rusher. When he runs, it’s almost as if he was shot right out of the cannon with the quickness he displays. He’s a ballhawk. Wherever the football is, number 33 is whether he’s making a tackle, going after the ball-carrier, in coverage defending the deep pass or for a sack. He’s a playmaker.

This is a big-time loss for the Chargers defense. It’s tough to replace his production. He’s turned himself into one of the best all-around safeties in the game. He became the epicenter of Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme in Los Angeles. James allowed 44 catches on 62 targets for 364 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his rookie campaign. He had a great first year in the NFL and the best is yet to come.