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Derwin James Player Profile

Derwin James is the starting strong safety for the Los Angeles Chargers. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, James is above average in size for a safety. However, there is more than just his size that makes him such a valued player on the Chargers. This is the Derwin James player profile.


Fantastic Leader

Derwin James and Co. celebrating

Derwin James, #33, is the undisputed leader of the Chargers defense. (Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

One can make an argument for either Derwin James and defensive edge Joey Bosa being the most talented player on the Chargers defense. However, James is the clear leader of this unit. In his rookie season in 2018, James had already taken over as the leader of the defense. This honor often goes to the middle linebacker since they tend to take on leadership roles. However, James had such a knack for how defenses operated, he earned the trust and faith of the entire defensive unit by the end of his rookie season.

Along with his knowledge and skill, James was able to become the leader of this defense through his undeniable charisma. He’s simply a funny guy, who also can easily get on the good side of anyone he comes across. Teammates love him, coaches love him, even sports media loves him. A personality like his is just built for a leadership role. Not to mention, he will constantly make his teammates feel validated, as shown by how hyped he gets when a teammate makes a big play. His excitability helps elevate the morale and play of his teammates.

Elite Athlete

James is listed as a strong safety on the Chargers’ depth chart, but his skill set and athleticism make him so much more. James’s athleticism allows him to play at virtually any position he wants on defense, aside from the defensive line. He has the strength, speed, and football IQ to thrive at safety (strong AND free), cornerback, nickel back, and linebacker. This versatility makes him essentially a supercharged Swiss Army Knife for Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

Extensive Football IQ

Derwin James intercepts the ball
Derwin James, #33, can use his insane athleticism and instincts to disrupt passes and create turnovers. (Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

Football IQ is something intangible that can’t just be measured in exact measurements, unlike athleticism. To gauge a player’s football IQ, one must instead look at their in-game play and watch how they perceive real-time situations and how they adjust. For example, if an opposing offense decides to change plays (audible), a defensive leader’s quickness to react and audible for his squad is important. The faster HE reacts, the more time his teammates have to react to the audible.

Football IQ goes much deeper than audibles and reactiveness though. After all, it’s an attribute that applies to all players, not just the leaders. A player’s ability to recognize even the most minute details in real-time can be the difference-maker in whether a play is successful or not. And luckily for the Chargers, James’s football IQ is one of the best in the game.


The Injury Bug

Any Chargers fan could’ve expected this one. The biggest concern about James is his injury history. Since entering the league in 2018, James has suffered two severe injuries in his career. In the offseason before the 2019 season, James suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, which required surgery to fix. That surgery caused him to miss 11 games in 2019, only returning for the last five games. The very next offseason, James got hurt again, suffering a meniscus tear in his right knee. The surgery required to fix that tear put him on the Injured Reserve (IR) for the entire 2020 season.

Understandably, fans were concerned that James would miss yet another season due to injury in 2021. Thankfully, that was not the case. James played in 15 of 17 games in 2021, missing one game to deal with a nagging hamstring injury and spent another on the COVID-19 reserve list (along with over a dozen other Chargers players). It was reassuring that James played through the whole 2021 season, but he would need to repeat that feat next season to ease the minds of Chargers fans.

Not a Turnover Machine

This may be nitpicky, but who cares? James doesn’t exactly have many weaknesses. James has fantastic instincts due to his high football IQ, so his ability to predict and counter deep throws is commendable. To put it simply, James has a knack for breaking up passes and locking down receivers. Unfortunately, that knack doesn’t really translate to interceptions. Time and time again, James places himself in the perfect position to get an interception, but he just…drops it. As long as he causes the disruption and prevents the big gain, I suppose?


James is simply a superstar player. He is the undeniable leader of the Chargers’ defense and is one of (if not the best) player on that defense. His value to the Chargers organization is astronomical. And his value to the team being at an all-time high works out well for James. This is James’s last year on his rookie deal, meaning he will be a free agent after the 2022 season. The Chargers will likely not want to let such a valuable player walk, so James will likely sign a massive deal to stay in the powder blues. At least, he will if Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and the Chargers’ front office realize his value and do whatever it takes to make him stay.

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