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Derwin James: Chargers’ 2018 sack leader?

Likely? No. Possible? Always.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We are only two games in to the 2018 season and something beautiful has already started to rear its’ head.

Without star pass-rusher Joey Bosa, all eyes have turned to the likes of Melvin Ingram, Uchenna Nwosu, Chris Landrum, and Isaac Rochell in order to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With #99 nursing a bone bruise that will reportedly cause him to miss time into the month of October, at least one of these guys has got to step up and lead that charge, right?

Well, believe it or not, through the first two games of the season, the team’s leader in sacks is none other than the team’s first-round selection, safety Derwin James.

According to Pro Football Focus, the former-Florida State product has the highest pass-rushing grade from the entire 2018 draft class, regardless of position. His 81.5 grade is currently higher than those of coveted edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Harold Landry.

PFF went on to say that, in their most recent game against the Buffalo Bills, James was tasked with rushing the passer 11 times. Out of those 11 plays, he generated five pressures which was more than double the total of any other safety from week 2.

The craziest part about James final stat line is that he could have at least one, maybe even two more sacks on top of it.

In the above play, the rookie duo of Nwosu and James both rush from the right side, putting Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins into a blunder. Dawkins commits to Nwosu, as he should have. However, this left James free to lay the wood on quarterback Josh Allen.

To my utter dismay, James missed the sack. Now, Allen is a big body and a strong player, in his own right. However, I’ve watched this play over and over again and there’s no mistake about it. James thought he had the kill-shot and forgot to breakdown. This allowed Allen to step up and through the pair of blitzers and break off a long run.

Did the play matter in the grand scheme of things? Not at all.

Still frustrating, though.

All in all, James was the Chargers’ third-highest rated player from their game against the Bills, clocking in with an 85.7. He was everywhere, lining up all over the field but spending most of his snaps (31) up in the box. To no one’s surprise, James played a large role in helping the defense limit LeSean McCoy and the Bills’ rushing attack to just 84 yards on the night.

Could James really end up leading the team in sacks once the everything is said and done? It’s highly improbably, but not something to completely shake off, either. With the big bear out for at least another handful of weeks, expect defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to scheme up some pressure from some of the unlikeliest of places.