Chargers lose Derwin James for the season
September 3, 2020
If it were not for bad luck, they would have no luck at all. That could be one way to describe the Los Angeles Chargers. For the second straight season, star defensive back Derwin James failed to make it through training camp without a serious injury. On Monday, James suffered a season ending knee injury and was put on the injured reserve, ending his 2020 season.
James missed the first 11 games of last season with a broken foot and this year's injury means the team will go another year without their star safety. On Tuesday, James had successful surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. He will be out for 6-8 months but should be back for the 2021 season. In the meantime, the Chargers need to find a replacement for the talented strong safety.
James is probably the best defensive player on the Chargers. There is no one individual that can replace all the things he could do. James can be a box-safety, he can rush the passer, cover deep and cover short. He is a physical tackler, and no one patrols the middle of the field like James. He is a playmaker.
The Chargers do have good depth at safety and will likely move 2019 second round pick Nasir Adderley into the starting free safety position and move starting free safety Rayshawn Jenkins to strong safety. Along with rookie sixth round pick Alohi Gilman from Notre Dame and undrafted rookie Romeo Finley from Miami, the Chargers are talented but young and inexperienced at safety. They may need to add a veteran at safety, either through free agency or via a trade.
One thing that may help the Chargers this season is an expanded practice squad due to the pandemic. The practice squad in 2020 is being expanded from 10 to 16 players and the Chargers will be able to shield four of those players from being poached by other NFL teams. NFL teams are allowed to pick up a player from another team's practice squad at any time if they sign him to a contract that gives him a spot on the active roster.
In 2020, NFL teams will be able to expand their rosters to 55 players on game day, 48 of which will be active on the day of the game. This means two players from the practice squad can temporarily be promoted to the game day roster. This change to the game day roster is a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
NFL training camp rosters were reduced in 2020 to 80 players rather than the typical maximum of 90, so that's 10 fewer players each team needs to cut to trim their rosters down to 53 before the September 5th deadline. The reduction in the roster size was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chargers may end up keeping 16 players from their current 80 player roster, meaning that they only need to cut 11 players by September 5th.
So, the Chargers need to get down to a 53-man roster and it will be interesting to see who does and does not make the roster. At quarterback, that decision is clear. With only three quarterbacks on the roster, it is likely all three will make the roster. Head Coach Anthony Lynn announced that Tyrod Taylor, the 11-year veteran will start, with rookie Justin Herbert the backup.
Lynn's stated that, "Right now, Tyrod Taylor is our starter. Until someone steps up and shows that they can run this team, that's the way we're going into it. Tyrod Taylor is our starter." Since both Herbert and No. 3 quarterback Eason Stick have never played in an NFL game, this is an easy decision going into the opener at Cincinnati. There also seemed to be a message being sent to Herbert in Lynn's statement.
Because there were not any preseason games this year, it is somewhat difficult to determine who will win backup positions on both defense and offense, at least as it looks to an observer of practices. But the Chargers will have good young talent in starting roles this season, on both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to watch the development of the young talent.
The running backs are Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and 2020 rookie 4th round draft pick Joshua Kelly. Ekeler is the veteran of this group at age 25. With sixteen practice squad slots to fill, it would not be a surprise to see two running backs on the practice squad. Darius Blackwell and Derrick Gore should make the practice squad.
At wide receiver, the Chargers have Keenan Allen and Mike Williams as the starters, both of whom had over 1,000 yards receiving last season. Williams has a shoulder sprain and may miss the opening game. Allen and Williams have 46 touchdown receptions in the NFL between them. There is not another wide receiver with a touchdown reception on the roster. The depth at wide receiver is a big question mark and this is a position the Chargers could upgrade before the season starts.
The starters appear to set at linebacker, with the rookie first round draft pick Kenneth Murray at middle linebacker, Kyzir White at weakside linebacker and Drue Tranquill at strongside linebacker. Tranquill is the old man in the group at 25, White is 24 and Murray is only 21 years of age. This group brings a lot of speed and energy to the linebacker positions.
The Chargers will have seven starters on defense 26 years of age or younger and five on offense that are 26 years or younger, with Herbert the quarterback of the future at the age of 22. They are a young team with a nice mix of veterans. The loss of James was a bad break for the Chargers, but this is still a talented roster that with a few breaks could make the playoffs.