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Chargers’ Nasir Adderley doesn’t feel hamstrung this year as he eyes safety spot

 Chargers safety Nasir Adderley intercepts a pass in front of San Francisco 49ers' Tyree Mayfield during a preseason game.
Chargers safety Nasir Adderley, shown intercepting a pass in front of the San Francisco 49ers’ Tyree Mayfield during a preseason game last summer, will start since Derwin James is sidelined after knee surgery.
(Associated Press)

The last time Nasir Adderley played in a game the Chargers were tied for second in the AFC West — with a team that, technically speaking, no longer exists.

Yeah, it has been awhile, considering the Chargers finished 0-6 in the division last season and the Raiders franchise has since relocated from Oakland to Las Vegas.

But with strong safety Derwin James out for the season because of a knee injury, Adderley is now in position to become a much more prominent member of the Chargers’ secondary.

He’s also in line for an opportunity to finally prove why the team drafted him in the second round in 2019.

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“It’s really a blessing just being out here,” Adderley said Wednesday. “I haven’t been fully healthy in a long time.”

An unrelenting hamstring injury ended Adderley’s rookie year after four games. When he did play, he mostly was limited to special teams, Adderley appearing on defense for only 10 snaps.

In the fourth episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” players on the Chargers and Rams express their emotions and frustrations about the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Nine of those came in the Chargers’ 30-10 Week 4 rout at Miami. That game happened on Sept. 29 and turned out to be Adderley’s finale.

He said he didn’t feel fully healed until four months later and then focused his entire offseason on this simple objective:

“It was just being available, just being healthy, making sure it was something that wasn’t going to reoccur.”

Without James but still with a group of versatile defensive backs, the Chargers have options. One of the most obvious is moving starter Rayshawn Jenkins from free safety to his former position of strong safety.

That would open the free safety spot for Adderley, who was drafted 60th overall out of Delaware because of his ball skills.

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Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins celebrates his interception during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs last November.
The versatility of safety Rayshawn Jenkins, shown celebrating his interception in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs last November, will help the Chargers compensate for the loss of Derwin James.
(Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

“Whether he’s ready or not, if that’s the direction we go, he’s going to have to be,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I have a lot of confidence in our secondary coaches to get him ready to play.”

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley praised Adderley throughout training camp, noting a more mature mind-set and approach.

He said Adderley has improved his consistency and understanding of the defense. Adderley said he has been working on the details, such as the proper angles to take when pursuing the ball.

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“He’s caught our eye,” Bradley said. “We’re fortunate to have a guy like that, who has really taken a big step from where he was last year to this year.”

The free safety spot can be the oddest of challenges. Jenkins has talked about having to sometimes fight boredom during games. No one lines up farther from the ball or is less involved play in, play out — until it matters the most.

Will Chargers star receiver Keenan Allen be able to be as productive with offense shifting its focus under new quarterback Tyrod Taylor?

Free safeties aren’t the only players who make touchdown-saving tackles, but they’re the only ones who face the possibility on every snap.

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“Sometimes you don’t get a whole lot of action,” Adderley said. “But when that action does come, it’s a huge play and you gotta make sure you’re ready.”

At Delaware, Adderley won awards for playing defense and special teams. He had 11 career interceptions, 33 pass breakups and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
So far in the NFL, he mostly has had to watch. Of the first 60 players drafted in 2019, Adderley was one of four who appeared in fewer than five games as a rookie.

His participation is about to ramp up, and will do so to start the regular season after the NFL canceled preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adderley won’t be easing into his second year, joining the rest of the NFL in going right from a practice field to the Sunday spotlight.

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“I’m prepared,” he said. “I’m confident wherever they want to put me. … When we’re not wearing the same color jerseys, I mean, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

James surgery done

James underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the meniscus tear in his right knee. In announcing the procedure, the Chargers said he will be placed on injured reserve and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2021 season.

This is James’ third significant injury since 2016, starting with a meniscus tear in his left knee when he was at Florida State. That one ended his season after two games. In August of 2019, James suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and missed the first 11 games of the season.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Lynn said. “You don’t know why these things happen.”

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In discussing the situation with reporters, Lynn suggested praying for James and quoted the bible.

Chargers have a deep secondary, and now that will be tested as star safety Derwin James will require surgery on his right knee.

“I’m more concerned about him than the Chargers,” Lynn explained. “We’re going to be OK. Just making sure his head space is good. That’s my primary concern.

“He’s going to be OK. But, understandably so right now, he’s frustrated as hell. This is a guy that does everything right. You look at his body, he has eight abs, not six. He eats right. He’s polite to people. He’s respectful. He’s a great teammate. He’s a leader. And you wonder why something like this happens to him.”

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Pouncey watches

Center Mike Pouncey watched practice Wednesday in street clothes after being a limited participant to start the week. He is coming back from season-ending neck surgery and remains out because of an undisclosed injury.

Asked if he thought Pouncey would be available for the Chargers’ Sept. 13 opener at Cincinnati, Lynn would only say he hoped so.

“He’s a veteran,” Lynn said. “He’s proven in this camp that he still can do it. We don’t want to overdo it with him. We’re just trying to keep him fresh, stay ahead of his injury and see what happens.”


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