It’s not common for rookies in their second game to have this type of impact right away. At the same time, it’s too early to say they’ve arrived.
Derwin James, Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White all have room to grow, and the Bolts will need them to if they want to achieve their goals by year’s end.
The good news is despite their strong performance, all three admitted as much, insisting they must get better. However, they did allow themselves the rest of the day to soak in what was a memorable performance.
Their success in the Chargers’ 31-20 win over Buffalo didn’t come as a shock to Head Coach Anthony Lynn, who noted all three had a strong week of practice leading up to the game.
“I thought this week in practice, all three of those guys looked better,” he said. “They looked faster, and just learning our system is what they’re doing. This is about the time you see those rookies come on. They understand the speed of the NFL game right about now. You saw it in practice and it showed up in the game.”
Nwosu made an impact early, recording his first career sack on the Bills’ third snap from scrimmage.
“It felt good,” he said. “I still can’t believe it happened, it came so early. But I’m thankful for my coaches for giving me an opportunity to go out there (having) prepared like I did all week and putting me in the game to perform. It’s what they pay us to do. It’s why they brought us in here; to make plays. I expect nothing less, nothing short and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
While Nwosu made his impact play in the first quarter, White came through at the end with a clutch interception midway through the fourth quarter. White’s interception was one of three passes defensed on the day for the fourth-round pick, who also added four tackles.
As far as the interception goes, perhaps the most impressive part of his diving pick was that it was rooted in film prep with his coaches throughout the week.
“I was seeing a little shallow (route) coming in right in front of me, and I knew that was just bait, so I hit the over,” White said. “I remember in film, our coaches telling us don’t take the bait. So, I got more depth and I saw the over coming, and I just tried to make a play on the ball.”
He certainly did.
In fact, White was praying for an opportunity to make a game-changing play, and delivered in a major way.
“I was just happy,” he said. “Before that series, I was praying like, ‘God let me make a play, just help me out.’ And he answered my prayers so I definitely want to thank God. There was a lot going through my head, like I really just caught that.”
And then there was James, who was all over the place for the second-straight week.
The Chargers’ first-round pick notched his second sack of the season while also totaling a game-high five tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass defensed and an additional QB hit.
However, James still feels he needs to get better.
“Every day, I feel like I’m taking what my coaches are giving me and just trying to get better,” he said. “I always envisioned myself playing on Sundays and making plays. Playing in the backyard with my friends when I was younger. Just thinking back that one day I may play (in the league). Now, just finally transitioning and it’s slowing down for me a lot.”
Desmond King knows what it’s like to be in James, Nwosu and White’s shoes. After all, he was a rookie who earned a ton of playing time a year ago. Like everyone else, he too is awfully impressed by the way the trio showed out on Sunday.
“Derwin is a phenomenal athlete,” he said. “That guy is freakish out there (coming) off the edge rushing and dropping back in coverage. I think once he gets the hang of it, he’s going to be a great player. Kyzir, his game and his talents speak for themselves. He’s out there as a linebacker running out there with the tight ends and receivers just making plays. That’s what we expect from the young guys and I’m pretty sure they’re going to keep growing throughout the season.”
As far as James is concerned, he believes this can be just the tip of the iceberg.
In order to get there, he knows the rookies still need to put in a ton of work.
“We’re growing,” he said. “None of us are at our best football yet. I feel like we’re still (working). The thing about our group, especially our group that came in with Justin Jones and everybody, we all said that we wanted to come in and change the culture and change the program. I feel like we’re heading in the right direction because we’ve got the right guys and the right leaders in front of us. They’re just guiding us. We’re just learning, soaking everything in, and I just feel like our best football is ahead of us.”