The word that can best describe the Los Angeles Chargers as a team even before the 2020 NFL season gets underway could be resilience. That may be considered a little bit of hyperbole or high praise since the team has not even played a single down in the regular season.
But there is something to be said about the manner the Chargers has gone about their business in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing a future Hall of Fame quarterback, and having to speak out against the social injustice atrocities that have speed-dialed massive protests around the world.
Then there is the matter of moving into their new home (SoFi Stadium) in Inglewood. Throughout all of this, Chargers players and coaches have tackled each day with resolve. Instead of panic in the wake of multiple crises, the organization has been a consistent model of measuredness.
That determined outlook to overcome all hiccups and bumps in the road was challenged when Derwin James, the Chargers All-Pro free safety went down with a knee injury on Aug. 31.
“I think it’s an incredibly unfortunate situation,” Chargers second-year safety Nasir Adderley said. “I mean, DJ’s my guy…You don’t want to see injuries happen to nobody, but especially seeing it happen to a person like him. Everyone knows what type of player he is. But the person he is, the leader, mentor, and all that it was really hard to see, especially come off his injury last year. So, we’re supporting him and being there for him any way that we can. The game is better when he’s out there.”
Life can be cruel at times. Sometimes there is simply no rhyme or reason to explain what life offers up. In the NFL, that mantra holds true as well.
As a player on the top of the food chain when it comes to being a dominant force on the football field, James has seen the good as well as the bad.
The third-year defensive stalwart has ridden the high of a breakthrough season as a rookie and he has gone through a series of unfortunate events that have forced him to the sidelines and off the playing field.
After tearing up the league on his way to becoming an All-Pro safety in 2018, James was saddled with an injury that caused him to miss 11 of the 16 games played in the 2019 season. Speed-dial it to the 2020 season, and James was expected to be the same ferocious force on a very talented defense as he was back in his first season with the Chargers.
The chance for James to re-capture his on-field magic has come and went for this season. James, the Chargers announced, underwent successful surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.
James is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2021 season. That’s good news. However, the absence of James will be profoundly felt. Because he plays such an integral part in the Chargers’ defense the news that James will miss the season before it even gets started is not something he nor the Chargers were prepared to hear.
“I’m sure everybody has heard the news about DJ (Derwin James). I spoke with him last night, late last night. He’s home recovering. He’s doing fine. Yeah, we’re going to miss that young man,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters in a Zoom conference call. “We’re going to miss for the season most likely. We have other guys on the team that’s got to step up. But it’s hard to step up and replace a young man like him with his intangibles. He’s just as dynamic off the field as he is on the field. It’s just unfortunate. We don’t know why these things happen. The only thing that I can go back to is Proverbs 3:5 and 6: Lean not on your own understanding but trust the Lord in all your ways. That’s always gotten me by, and I shared that with DJ. He’s a man of faith, and if you pray, just keep him in your prayers.”
The blow of losing James cannot be understated. But the Chargers may have already found their ram in the bush in the form of Adderley, whose football pedigree spells greatness. If he plays anywhere near the level that his cousin Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Herb Adderley played at during his NFL heyday, the former Delaware star should be more than capable of handling his business.
Herb Adderley played nine of his 12 seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, played in four Super Bowls and earned five Pro Bowl nods. Listed at 6 feet and 206 pounds, Nasir Adderley is right at the playing weight of his older cousin which could work out well for him.
Now that doesn’t mean the Chargers’ draftee (No. 60) in the second round in the 2019 NFL Draft will have a bust in Canton, Ohio someday. It only means that the apple from the family tree didn’t fall too far. With that said, Adderley could be the one to step into James’ shoes. Those are some really big shoes to fill.
Lynn believes Adderley is capable of stepping up if he is called on to be the one to take James’ place as the team’s starting free safety.
“Whether he’s ready or not, if that’s the direction that we go he’s going to have to be ready,” Lynn said. “I have a lot of confidence in our secondary coaches to get him ready to play.”
It’s not a given yet that Adderley will be given the starting nod, not will free-agent free safety Earl Thomas looking for a home during the 2020 season.
“We’re going to look at all options,” Lynn said. “We’ll take a look at all options.”
Once the smoke clears from all the rosters cuts Lynn and the team will be making on their way to solidifying a 53-man roster, Adderley should be standing with the rest of the secondary talent the Chargers already have in place. That includes shutdown cornerbacks in Casey Hayward Jr. and Chris Harris Jr. Throw in veterans Rayshawn Jenkins, Desmond King, Michael Davis, as well as rookie Alohi Gilman (Notre Dame).
But with training camp, nothing is really for certain until that last roster spot has been claimed. In the case of Adderley, he is confident that his offseason preparation has put him in a position to have a great season.
“As far as me being ready for my opportunity, I’ve prepared and I trust my preparation,” Adderley said. “I’m confident wherever they want to put me, whether that’s free safety, strong safety, nickel. Coach (defensive backs coach Ron) Milus does a great job of making sure we’re versatile and learning every single position.”
One reason why Adderley feels he’s ready to take on all-comers this season is the fact that he is doesn’t have any nagging injuries weighing on him.
“It’s really a blessing just being out here,” Adderley said. “I haven’t been healthy, fully healthy for a while, just going back to my Grade 3 ankle sprain I had in college right into the hamstring that kept lingering and lingering and getting worse. I’m just thankful to be out here and I’m just not taking any day for granted.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”