With Derwin James back, Chargers have safety in numbers entering NFL draft
As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 2 of 10: Safeties.
The Chargers had one of the NFL’s most significant in-season roster additions in 2019 when, on the first day of December, they inserted safety Derwin James into the starting lineup.
Of course by Week 13 they were buried in the AFC West and not even the return of one of the NFL’s most dynamic defenders was going to make a difference.
A healthy James in 2020 would mean plenty given the way he impacted so much the season before as a rookie.
Assuming he can remain on the field, James should establish himself as one of the leaders — if not the leader — of the defense. His play and personality naturally make him someone teammates are eager to follow.
Rayshawn Jenkins emerged as a legitimate starter at free safety in 2019, coach Anthony Lynn praising Jenkins at every opportunity. Entering the season, he was a bit of a question mark. But Jenkins mostly maintained his composure — an issue in past seasons — and displayed the skill-set that led to the Chargers drafting him in the fourth round in 2017.
Adding stud cornerback Chris Harris to the defense means the Chargers will not have to expend a high pick on the position in the NFL draft.
After the starters, this secondary has potential depth at safety, particularly in Nasir Adderley. The word “potential” still must be applied to Adderley because not even the Chargers are sure what he can bring.
A hamstring injury torpedoed his rookie season after the Chargers used a second-round pick to select the playmaker out of Delaware.
A healthy Adderley would give the Chargers more options in a secondary already filled with versatility.
“I wouldn’t bet against the young man,” Lynn said. “We just need to get him on the field. I believe when he gets on the field things will work themselves out. But we gotta get him on the field.”
Adderley was limited to four games in 2019 and played only 10 snaps on defense. The rest of his experience came on special teams, where he figures to have a chance to excel this season.
Chase Young is not expected to be the first pick in the NFL draft, but the Ohio State edge rusher has no doubt he is worthy of that distinction.
Under contract for 2020: James ($3.378 million), Jenkins ($2.298 million), Desmond King ($2.203 million), Adderley ($1.075 million), Roderic Teamer ($675,666), Quinton Meeks ($675,000).
Free agents: The Chargers lost an impactful piece when Adrian Phillips departed for New England. King, who mostly has played cornerback during his career, figures to assume a good chunk of the responsibility Phillips had as a safety in pass packages.
Draft: Given their options at the position and the fact they used a second-round pick on Adderley a year ago, the Chargers are unlikely to shop for a safety in the draft. In 2019, they were looking to replace starter Jahleel Addae. They are much more set now.
Roster decisions: The biggest question is how the coaches will use Adderley and King when everyone is healthy. The surplus suggests a trade is possible, although King remains a legitimate playmaker. In a perfect world, both would stand out on a team that sorely lacked defensive playmakers in 2019.
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