One of the NFL’s best safeties will be returning for the final stretch of the 2019 campaign. After undergoing surgery during the summer and missing most the season, Chargers defensive back Derwin James is expected to return to game action in Week 13, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
James suffered a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in August after a screw originally inserted during his freshman year at Florida State bent back. The injury required a surgical operation to remove the screw, and a new screw has since been placed, per Schefter. James is now running without any pain, allowing him to get back on the field after the Chargers complete their Week 12 bye.
The 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft, James entered the NFL with high expectations and quickly surpassed them. The now-23-year-old started all 16 games for Los Angeles during his rookie campaign, posting three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and 3.5 sacks during that time. Pro Football Focus graded James as the league’s seventh-best safety, while he also garnered a first-team All-Pro nod.
With James and fellow safeties Adrian Phillips and Nasir Adderley on IR, the Chargers have primarily deployed Rayshawn Jenkins and undrafted rookie Roderic Teamer (who is also now injured) in the back end. So far, the results have been lackluster: after finishing 8th in defensive DVOA in 2018, Los Angeles now ranks 26th in the same metric, while the club has fallen from 10th in pass defense DVOA to 23rd.
Sitting at 4-5, the Chargers are on the outside looking in to the AFC playoff race, and FiveThirtyEight.com gives them only a 14% chance of earning a postseason berth. They’ll play the Raiders and Chiefs without James in tow, then face the Broncos, Jaguars, Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs once James returns.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.