INGLEWOOD, California – Los Angeles Chargers safety Durwin James Jr. was so excited to put on his cleats and get a first shot on the field at SoFi that he almost danced out of the locker room to warm up.
No place for nerves.
“I’m excited,” he said. “You see, I’m excited. I’m not nervous. I trust the preparation.”
That says a lot when you consider that James tore his right knee meniscus on August 31, 2020 and missed the entire season after surgery and extensive – and often lonely – physical therapy.
And he missed all but five games in 2019 with a Jones fracture in his right foot.
With excitement and not even the slightest impulse to look into the past, he landed on the SoFi field for a team scrimmage in front of the fans.
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“Man, just going out on the field today, it feels so good,” he said when it was over. “I did warm-up exercises and got my shoes and things in the ground for the first time. Everyone knows I didn’t make it to the stadium last year. Just get out of here today, compete against each other and play games today.” I have a feeling that it will only bring the momentum we need into the season. “
James was great in practice and resembled the all-pro form he showed as a rookie in 2018. Last Friday, he was guarding 6-foot-5 receiver Mike Williams and raking an interception. On Sunday he was guarding veteran tight end Jared Cook, who actually prepared a reception – “In the game, I would probably have come at full speed to score [Cook] but it was a good pass from Herbert, “explained James.
And also on Sunday he thrilled the fans by picking up quarterback Justin Herbert, who was supposed to push Austin disgust back from the back room with his throw.
“It felt good to come out and put on the uniform. There are still a lot of things to clean up. There are still a lot of moving parts, ”said James.
James will certainly make his thoughts known in the field.
On Sunday he was mike and was full of “Let’s go! Let’s go!” Applause. After picking up the disgusting pass, James ran back across the field, encouraging the fans, and jumping around yelling, “Let’s go, baby!”
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His enthusiasm is sure to be contagious. It enables him to play on the entire field, to serve as cover security, box security and linebacker during the run, to cover receivers like a cornerback and to rush the passer. James plays in so many different spots that it will make your head spin to find him on the field.
“[Dealing with James is] is going to be a problem because now you have him and me who are positionless players, “said Chris Harris Jr., veteran of the Chargers veteran.” You never know where we’re going to play. I can line up in his position, he can take mine. “
Add in linebackers Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray Jr., and Harris says, “Our dime and nickel package should be the best in the league.”
The lack of position of James’ role in defending the Chargers isn’t much of a change.
“That’s how I started playing football. That’s how I learned to play the game,” he said.
And the ongoing competition between James and Pro Bowl recipient Keenan Allen at camp caught the attention of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
“They are two top players,” said Lombardi. “I know that’s a little close to Durwin – I’ll bet my money on him for anyone.”
And yes, that includes everyone.
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That’s praise from a man who trained on the New Orleans Saints staff and saw his share of talented players, but first met James at the minicamp and training camp.
Lombardi’s belief is shared by James’ teammates. And head coach Brandon Staley trusts James to show the games.
“I definitely feel like I’ve made progress since spring,” said James. “I’m learning more positions, learning what everyone around me is doing. I just understand the levers and where the help is and where everything will be in this defense.”
Despite being new to the Chargers, Staley knows how hard James worked to return to that position. James was in the training room almost every day last season, occasionally next to Ekeler – who missed six games after a hamstring injury. The praise for James’ work ethic during this rehab was universal.
“We all know when he’s out there this team is a completely different football team and a completely different film,” said Staley, “and I’m excited to see this film with him.”