Why Chiefs must gameplan for Chargers’ safety Derwin James Jr.

He finished Sunday with six tackles, half as many as another safety who played in the game, Las Vegas’ Johnathan Abram.

The impact Derwin James Jr. had on the Chargers in their 24-19 win went well beyond simple numbers.

“You might not see the impact he has on a stat sheet,” said coach Brandon Staley. “But what you do, if you watch the game, you’ll see the impact he has. Then, when you watch the game live, you also feel the impact he makes.”

James fired Derek Carr in the Raiders’ second offensive game. He helped knock out wide receiver Davante Adams in the Raiders’ final offensive game. In between, James did pretty much everything else.

He played all of the Chargers’ 58 defensive snaps and lined up in five different positions, according to Pro Football Focus.

James has been used at free safety (20 snaps), in the slot (19), in the box (14), along the defensive line (three) and at the outside corner (two), PFF reported.

“You can’t minimize the amount of energy it takes for him on a game plan like that,” Staley said. “Physical energy. Spiritual energy. It’s one thing to have the versatility to play all these different locations, but can your mind allow you to do that? Can you play all these locations and do these tasks well?

“That’s why he’s this rare combination and this rare leader. He played fantastic. He played a nice game for us.”

James’ ability to move through defense allows the Chargers to continue to maximize their staff and also seek play-to-play advantages. Staley called James “one of the rare matchup guys in the league.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is released by Chargers safety Derwin James Jr.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is released by Chargers safety Derwin James Jr.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

On Las Vegas’ second play, James slipped around left tackle Kolton Miller, who was also fighting Khalil Mack at the time, and then went over Josh Jacobs before climbing on top of Carr.

“Plays like that don’t surprise you with guys like Durwin,” Staley said. “But you don’t take her for granted. He’s a playmaker. Many DBs cannot flash. You can’t hurry.

“Although some schemes are good if DBs flash, it doesn’t matter if they can’t flash. He’s one of those guys who can really rush and is really a matchup guy in the pass rush.

Staley explained that the Chargers try to take advantage of James’ ability by putting him in offense mode whenever possible.

At the last, crucial stop of the defense on Sunday, James lined up in front of Adams and followed him as he waved. The Chargers also had safety Nasir Adderley positioned to help Adams, who had 10 receptions for 141 yards in the game.

Carr looked in the direction of his favorite target but saw nothing available just before Mack fired him to end the Raiders’ last chance.

Staley said Monday the Chargers would “make sure the guy covering Davante was one of our premium guys.”

“Sometimes you have to do just that,” Staley said. “You have to mix the coverage. You have to throw different body types at such players. You’re always trying to give them a hard time and change the look.”

James and the Chargers face a bigger challenge Thursday when they play in Kansas City, which no longer has wide receiver Tyreek Hill but still employs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.

The Chiefs posted a league-high 44 points in a road route across Arizona on Sunday. Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns, and Kelce caught eight passes for 121 yards and a score.

Keenan Allen clock

The Chargers will likely be without receiver Keenan Allen against Kansas City after sustaining a hamstring injury late Sunday in the first half.

Staley didn’t have an update on Allen, but especially in a short week, the chances of the veteran making a comeback any time soon seem slim at best.

Staley put cornerback JC Jackson’s availability for Thursday at “50/50.” Jackson missed the opener after undergoing surgery on his right ankle on Aug. 23.

If Allen is unable to play, Joshua Palmer and DeAndre Carter become the team’s two best options for the slot. Mike Williams can play there, as can running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Gerald Everett.

“Everyone just has to do a little bit more,” Staley said. “But we feel like we have a diverse enough cast that we can kind of share the load.”

Etc.

The Chargers signed veteran defensive tackle Christian Covington from their practice team and did without Breiden Fehoko. Staley said the team hopes to reinstate Fehoko on the training squad if he is not claimed. … Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater was listed on Monday’s injury report with a back problem, although the Chargers estimated Slater would have been able to fully train. Due to the short processing time, the team did not train on Monday.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-09-12/chargers-derwin-james-jr-safety-kansas-city-chiefs-thursday Why Chiefs must gameplan for Chargers’ safety Derwin James Jr.

Emma Bowman

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