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Derwin James' Career Off to Historic Start

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Many thought the Chargers hit it big when they somehow landed Derwin James with the 17th overall pick in April's draft.

Still, no one could have expected him to be this good, this fast.

After all, he's doing things that no one in decades has done over the first three games of their career.

James sacked Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in each of the team's first two games before picking off Jared Goff this past Sunday. In doing so, the 6-2, 215-pound safety became the first defensive back since 1987 to record at least two sacks and one interception in his first three career games. James is also the first to do so in a non-strike year since 1983.

Thus, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the rookie ranks as the team leader in numerous categories, including tackles (23), passes defensed (four), sacks (2.0) and interceptions (one).

James' range and playmaking ability was well discussed in the leadup to the NFL Draft. However, his ability to get after the quarterback when blitzing is something fans may not have expected.

"He has a knack for it," said Head Coach Anthony Lynn. "I like when those guys rush the passer. They never stop their feet. They can make a move, never stop their feet and just keep moving. They can jump around running backs and, sometimes, overpower running backs…. You could say (he has rare skills for a safety). Not every safety can rush like Derwin can."

Those rare skills allow the Bolts to use him in different ways, which Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley credits to James' sharp football IQ as much as his natural physical gifts.

"He's pretty sharp," Bradley said. "I think that question was asked in training camp. He has seemed to pick it up very well in the classroom, it was just a matter of getting reps on the field. He's still learning. He still has a learning curve to him, obviously, and probably will for many years, but what we're seeing is that he does play fast. Whatever is on his plate and whatever you ask him to do, he is going to go 100 miles per hour. Even if it's a mistake, he'll go 100 miles per hour. I think he's getting a better feel for it. Obviously, we're still a little protective of what we're going with him and some of the situations that we're putting him in, but we're starting to add to his plate."

Now, while it's easy to get excited about James, it's important to temper that enthusiasm. 

We are only 180 minutes into his career, and there will surely be plenty of growing pains to come as he adjusts to the NFL. In fact, while his strong play has gotten plenty of pub, he has already made his fair share of rookie mistakes.

To his credit, James knows he's been far from perfect and is the first to admit there are areas he needs to clean up. That for all those historic stats and flashy plays, he still has a long way to go before he can be a consistent playmaker in this league. 

He'd also trade those stats in a heartbeat if it meant a winning record, giving the exact reaction you'd want when told about his historic stats.

"(They) don't matter," he said. "We've got two losses."

Nonetheless, it's OK to get excited about James as he's accomplished feats rarely seen before in NFL history.

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