Derwin James’ brilliant 2018 debut showed how special a talent he was and could possibly become.
However, injuries took it away from him – and the NFL world – as he has played in five games in the last two seasons.
The Los Angeles Chargeurs security delivered a highlight that social media abused on Fridays, with the collective hope that James could finally build on this phenomenal first impression this year.
James saved George Klight in front of the tight end to pick up the 1-yard Jimmy Garoppolo pass and raced the other way for a 99 year-old score in a joint exercise with San Francisco 49ers.
It raised eyebrows and joys, even from another James, or not.
Something about them JAMES boys!! Happy to see you back healthy again and doing what you do best DJ!! 🙏🏾💪🏾👑 https://t.co/uIZnZ9hoiY— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 20, 2021
“The excitement after that was great, especially after the little scrap [earlier in practice],” James’ teammate Joey Bosa said via team transcript. “It has been amazing. It seems like it has been so long since we’ve been out there together. I love looking at pictures of us both flying up on the edge together. It’s a scary sight. I always say he is one of the best in the league. I truly believe that in any position, honestly, he is one of the most gifted athletes I have ever seen. His energy is unbelievable. To see him out there happy and healthy, it’s great.”
Bosa did not view this play as a result, but rather as a reminder of who and what he can do with the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“I don’t think he needs anything to awaken him,” Bosa said. “He would have done that regardless, but it was a good way to put the nail in the coffin.”
While INT is surely an excuse for the practice of the week, Charger’s Chief Trainer, Brandon Staley, viewed it as a strong sign of consciousness in the red area and a spectacular battle between James and Kittle’s two NFL elites.
“A lot of awareness of what’s happening in the red area, that’s what I saw,” Staley said. “I think that he really anticipated the matchup, anticipated the route. George got him in seven-on-seven on a similar sort of stem, then George went to the back corner — on that one, Derwin held his ground. That’s a special matchup. It’s been fun to see those guys go head-to-head the last couple of days. They’re two of the best in the entire league — not just at their positions, they’re two of the best players in the NFL. To see that competition, both in the passing game and in the run game, it was a great environment out there. That was a big-time play.”
A big-time play that bodes well for the Chargers moving forward.
“You need your premium players playing well in those types of situations,” Staley said. “Most of the time, in the NFL, the end of the game is going to come down to two-minute, low red area — those ‘got to have it’ situations. You know where good teams are going to go in those situations. George is as good of a player, really in any down and distance, but specifically down there. It’s an awesome matchup and great work for us.”
As a rookie who received Pro Bowl and All-Pro awards in 2018, James has played a dynamo of 75 strikes, three arrests, 13 defensive passes and 3.5 sacks. A stress fracture in his foot only reduced his sophomore campaign to 11 games and even before his 2020 season started a torn meniscus.
James has come back, and there is cause for overwhelming optimism – and hope that his health will continue.
In 99 yards of enthusiasm, James encapsulated all that promise.