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Chargers’ Derwin James reportedly has meniscus injury, could miss significant time

Chargers safety Derwin James makes a catch during practice.
Chargers safety Derwin James practices Aug. 18 in Costa Mesa.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

For the second consecutive training camp, the Chargers watched Derwin James hobble off the field with a member of the team’s medical staff.

The standout safety suffered a reported meniscus injury Sunday in the second half of a scrimmage in Costa Mesa and did not return. The NFL Network reported that James is “likely to miss significant time.”

He was scheduled to undergo further testing in an attempt to determine the severity.

Last August, James was hurt on the same field in a joint practice with the New Orleans Saints.

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He suffered a foot injury on that occasion and ended up needing surgery. James missed 11 games before returning in early December, by which time the Chargers had lost seven times en route to a 5-11 finish.

After remaining down briefly Sunday, he limped to the sideline before heading to the medical tent. James tossed his gloves aside in frustration before disappearing from view.

Rookie Alohi Gilman, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in April, has been backing up James in practice.

The Chargers did not hold their first scrimmage at SoFi Stadium as originally scheduled Thursday in response to the Jacob Blake shooting.

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Nasir Adderley, a second-round selection in 2019, is No. 2 behind Rayshawn Jenkins at free safety. Adderley missed most of last season because of a hamstring problem.

Desmond King started at the position the game before James returned last year. King has been playing mostly nickel in practice but has trained at safety in the past.

The Chargers have depth in the secondary, but no one who can provide the consistent playmaking of James. Any long-term loss would be a tough blow for a defense that was forecast to be among the AFC’s best.

Veteran safety and seven-time Pro Bowl player Earl Thomas is available after being released last week by Baltimore. A long-time Seattle Seahawk, Thomas would be familiar with the Chargers’ scheme.

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He was let go abruptly after an on-field altercation with Ravens safety Chuck Clark. Baltimore announced it was terminating his contract, making Thomas a free agent.

Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas during a game.
Will the Chargers pursue Baltimore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas?
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

As a rookie in 2018, James started all 16 games and finished with a team-high 109 tackles, 3½ sacks and three interceptions. James started the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro.

In his absence last season, the Chargers’ defense struggled to produce turnovers as the team dropped nine of 11 one-score games.

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Adrian Phillips initially replaced James in 2019 before he went down with a broken arm. Phillips departed in the offseason, joining New England as a free agent.

Roderic Teamer and Jaylen Watkins also started games at strong safety a year ago and are no longer with the team.

In July, Teamer was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. He was released this month. Watkins now plays for Houston.

The Chargers already are dealing with the loss of one of their top playmakers on offense, wide receiver Mike Williams, whose status for the start of the season is in doubt because of a shoulder injury.

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They originally were scheduled to scrimmage Thursday at SoFi Stadium. But coach Anthony Lynn canceled that practice after an emotional team meeting regarding the recent shooting of Jacob Blake.

The Chargers returned to the field at Jack Hammett Sports Complex on Sunday morning and scrimmaged for about 75 minutes. The practice marked the final official day of training camp.

Two weeks into first NFL training camp, Chargers QB Justin Herbert continues transition from college star to pro prospect. He’s still getting accustomed to calls at line.

Other players who were attended to by medical personnel during the workout included right guard Trai Turner, running back Justin Jackson and wide receiver Darius Jennings.

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The highlights of the scrimmage featured a roughly 50-yard completion from Tyrod Taylor to Jackson, who was matched up against defensive end Melvin Ingram in coverage.

Taylor also was intercepted by linebacker Nick Vigil on a pass over the middle intended for tight end Hunter Henry.

Justin Herbert, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, had a rough stretch during which he failed to find an open receiver on consecutive plays and had to take sacks. He then fumbled the next snap.

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The rookie later connected with tight end Donald Parham Jr. for a touchdown.

The Chargers’ other quarterback, Easton Stick, had several effective runs and also threw a touchdown pass operating the third-team offense.

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Center Mike Pouncey, who missed time last weekend because of a personal matter and has not yet returned to practice, watched from the sideline in street clothes.

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Dan Feeney started at center, and Forrest Lamp moved into Feeney’s normal spot as the starting left guard.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who has been dealing with a leg issue, did not participate. King assumed his role with the starting defense.

Rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. started at middle linebacker in place of Denzel Perryman, who did not take any defensive snaps. Murray was the No. 23 overall pick in April.

The Chargers will experience SoFi Stadium for the first time with a scrimmage Thursday. The Chargers are Linval Joseph’s third team to open a stadium, and he says it’s exhilarating.

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Rookie running back Josh Kelley had some eye-opening moments during training camp, repeatedly showing speed, power and an ability to get around the edge of the defense.

He had a setback Sunday when he fumbled near the goal line and the defense recovered.

“That’s the thing — the details,” he said. “If you’re one step away from your track, bad things can happen. Those are the little things, the little details, that I have to get better at, especially if I want to see the field.”

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Kelley, who grew up in Lancaster and played at UCLA, was a fourth-round pick. He admitted that he experienced goosebumps Sunday pulling on his Chargers uniform.

“He’s hit a few big plays for us in practice,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “The way he’s able to have great vision and bounce outside or hit a crease ... I think he’s going to be a good player for us this year and into the future.”


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