He finished Sunday with six tackles, half as many as another safety who played in the game, Las Vegas’ Johnathan Abram.
The effect Derwin James Jr. had for the Chargers in their 24-19 victory went well beyond simple numbers.
“You may not see the impact that he has on a stat sheet,” coach Brandon Staley said. “But what you do when you watch the game, you’ll see the impact that he makes. Then, if you’re watching the game live, you feel the impact that he makes too.”
James sacked Derek Carr on the Raiders’ second offensive play. He helped take away wide receiver Davante Adams on the Raiders’ final offensive play. In between, James did just about everything else.
He played all 58 of the Chargers’ defensive snaps and lined up at five different positions, according to Pro Football Focus.
James was deployed at free safety (20 snaps), in the slot (19), in the box (14), along the defensive line (three) and at outside corner (two), PFF reported.
“The amount of energy that is required for him in a game plan like that you can’t minimize,” Staley said. “Physical energy. Mental energy. It’s one thing to have the versatility to play all those different places, but can your mind allow you to do that? Can you play all those places and do those jobs well?
“That’s why he’s that rare combination and rare leader. He played fantastic. He played a beautiful game for us.”
James’ ability to move throughout the defense allows the Chargers to further maximize their personnel and also seek advantages from one play to the next. Staley called James “one of the rare matchup guys in the league.”
On Las Vegas’ second play, James slipped around left tackle Kolton Miller, who was also battling Khalil Mack at the time, and then went over running back Josh Jacobs before climbing onto Carr.
“With guys like Derwin, plays like that don’t surprise you,” Staley said. “But you don’t take them for granted. He’s a playmaker. A lot of DBs can’t blitz. They can’t rush.
“Even though some schemes are good when DBs blitz, if they can’t blitz, it doesn’t matter. He’s one of the guys that can truly rush and truly be a matchup guy in pass rush.”
Staley explained that the Chargers try to exploit James’ ability by placing him in attack mode whenever possible.
On the defense’s final, decisive stop Sunday, James lined in front of Adams and followed him when he motioned. The Chargers also had safety Nasir Adderley positioned to help on Adams, who had 10 receptions for 141 yards in the game.
Carr looked in the direction of his favorite target but saw nothing available just before Mack sacked him to end the Raiders’ last-gasp chance.
Staley said Monday the Chargers were “going to make sure that the guy who was covering Davante was one of our premium guys.”
“Sometimes, that’s what you gotta do,” Staley said. “You gotta mix coverage. You gotta throw different body types at players like that. You’re always trying to make it tough on them and change the look up.”
James and the Chargers face a greater challenge Thursday when they play at Kansas City, which no longer has wide receiver Tyreek Hill but still employs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs scored a league-high 44 points Sunday in a road rout over Arizona. Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns and Kelce caught eight passes for 121 yards and a score.
Keenan Allen watch
The Chargers likely will be without receiver Keenan Allen against Kansas City because of the hamstring injury he suffered late in the first half Sunday.
Staley had no update on Allen but, particularly in a short week, the chances of the veteran coming back so quickly seem remote at best.
If Allen can’t play, Joshua Palmer and DeAndre Carter become the team’s top two options to line up in the slot. Mike Williams also can play there, as can running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Gerald Everett.
“Everyone’s just got to do a little bit more,” Staley said. “But we feel like we’ve got a diverse enough cast where we can kind of share the load.”
The Chargers signed veteran defensive tackle Christian Covington off their practice squad and waived Breiden Fehoko. Staley said the team hopes to re-sign Fehoko to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed. … Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater was listed on the injury report Monday with a back issue, though the Chargers estimated that Slater would have been able to practice fully. With the short turnaround, the team didn’t practice Monday.