Losing Derwin James is big, but no reason to panic for the Chargers: The secondary is loaded with talent behind him
The Chargers secondary doesn't have to be a weak spot in 2019
The Los Angeles Chargers have had quite the eventful preseason. Running back Melvin Gordon is expected to , left tackle Russell Okung is recovering from a , star wide receiver Keenan Allen and safety Derwin James will in his foot.
While all of these situations present problems, many are worried about second-year safety James and his foot. Earlier this week, Adam Schefter reported that a screw that had been inserted in James' foot during his freshman year at Florida State had been bent, and that he is scheduled to undergo surgery in North Carolina on Thursday to remove it.
With a recovery timetable of three to four months, it's fair to question if the Chargers' secondary will be as dangerous, but many don't realize that the Bolts have another Pro Bowler who is ready to step up.
Adrian Phillips, who has spent all five of his NFL seasons with the Chargers, is now set to start at strong safety. He's coming off of a career year, where he recorded 65 tackles, nine passes defensed and one interception -- good enough for his first Pro Bowl appearance as well as a first-team All-Pro selection.
While he's played a big part in this secondary over the past few seasons, Phillips understands that he's not James. In 2018, the former Florida State star made the Pro Bowl and set the franchise single-season tackle record for a rookie. With that being said, Phillips has experience in this system and is ready to step in to make sure the Chargers defense doesn't miss a beat.
"I'm not stepping into this position to be anything that Derwin was," Phillips said, via the Los Angeles Times. "I've played a lot of snaps in my career. I played a whole bunch of snaps last year. We got to the playoffs, and we were able to make a lot of plays.
"So it's not necessarily thinking of replacing Derwin. It's, 'Hey, this is a little bump in the road. We gotta fix it … and keep it moving.' When you start thinking you're replacing somebody or you have to live up to what somebody else has done, that's when all the bad stuff starts to happen."
When it comes to the Chargers secondary, it's all about versatility. It's a big reason James thrived in his first season. Now with him out, however, Los Angeles will look to utilize other players who are versatile enough to play along the line of scrimmage as well as deep in the secondary. One of those players is third-year defensive back Desmond King, who recorded 62 combined tackles, 10 passes defensed and three interceptions last season -- another first-team All-Pro player the Chargers had in 2018. He's expected to see time at cornerback and safety in 2019.
As for who will start alongside Phillips, right now that role has been given to Rayshawn Jenkins. The third-year defensive back didn't get his first start last year until the regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos, where he recorded seven combined tackles in the 23-9 win. He also started the two playoff games, recording a total of 13 combined tackles.
He's another player who has played multiple roles on this defense -- sometimes lining up as a linebacker hybrid and as the nickel corner. While he's the starter now, expect the Chargers to use several players at safety. Don't forget about second-round pick Nasir Adderley, who could end up playing a big role for this secondary in 2019. Adderley was a value pick for the Chargers as most analysts had him pegged as a fringe first-round talent.
It's fair to say that there's no one who can replace what James brought to this defense, but his absence doesn't mean that the secondary will be a weak spot on this team.
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