Below are three takeaways from safety Derwin James' press conference on Monday following the team's first practice of OTAs.
New year, new number
On Monday, Chargers safety Derwin James jogged up to the podium after practice with a big smile on his face.
James wasn't just excited to get back on the field with his teammates, he was also excited to debut his new No. 3 in the Bolts' powder blue practice jerseys.
James patiently waited a year to make the switch from 33 to three, a number that he's worn going back to his Pop Warner youth football days and the number he wore at Florida State.
As he prepares for his fifth year in the NFL, James talked about what it felt like to be back on the practice field with his fellow teammates on Monday.
"It feels good," James said. "Just to be able to go out and get on the grass, like you said, for the first time. To be able to run and catch against our offense, it feels good. We missed it. It feels like it was a long time ago, but I'm just happy to be back out here with the new guys we have out here, too."
The two-time Pro Bowl safety talked about what he's looking to improve as he focuses on the 2022 season and where he's looking to take his leadership next season.
"For myself, just being more of that leader," he said. "Being more of that vocal leader that we need on defense and the locker room. Just taking that to another level. Showing up every day and leading a great example for the young guys coming in like JT Woods and Khalil Mack. They're new here. [Mack] is a veteran guy, but just showing them how we do things around here. I feel like that's going to help our team."
Monday also gave James the chance to take the field with new teammate OLB Khalil Mack for the first time. James described what it was like to have Mack at practice on Monday and what having a player of his caliber on the team does.
"It was fun," he said. "Even seeing him in the weight room. Just having him around, you definitely can feel his presence. It's good to have him."
Feels more comfort in the defensive scheme, relaying the plays on defense
One of the main themes talked about on Monday was the comfort felt heading into the second year of the schemes head coach Brandon Staley installed a year ago. James echoed that message when talking about the defensive scheme and talked about the comfort he now feels at OTAs heading into year two of Staley's system.
"It's a lot more comfortable for me," James said. "Guys like [S] Nasir [Adderley] and guys like [CB] Asante [Samuel Jr.], we're kind of talking the same language. We're just trying to get the young guys to see it the same way that we're seeing it, just being a year ahead of them."
As one of the leaders on defense, the versatile safety took on wearing the green dot on gamedays last season, which gave him the responsibility of relaying the plays to the rest of the defense. James talked about the difference a year makes when it comes to taking on that role.
"I'm more comfortable this year doing it," he said. "Just hearing [Head] Coach [Brandon Staley] in my ear this year versus the first-time last year, it's more comfortable. It sounds more familiar to me. I kind of can finish some of the calls before he even says it to me now, so that's kind of cool."
Feels the Bolts secondary is 'very strong'
Along with bringing in Mack and bolstering the defensive line with the free agent additions of Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Morgan Fox the Bolts have also added key pieces to their secondary.
One of those being new cornerback J.C. Jackson, who now goes from AFC Pro Bowl teammate to full-time teammate with James. James talked about all the pieces added to the Bolts secondary this offseason and what it was like to work with his new teammates on Monday.
"Oh, we have a lot of guys," James said. "We just broke the huddle down there and there were a lot of guys breaking the huddle down. I feel like we're very strong this year. As you can see, as many DBs as you have, it's going to help."
The Bolts added to their secondary through the draft as well by selecting defensive backs Ja'Sir Taylor, Deane Leonard and safety JT Woods. James said he loves Woods and the size and range he brings at that position. With all those pieces added on defense, James talked about how it will allow him to do 'a lot more' on defense now.
"I feel like it's going to help our defense a lot," he said. "Being able to blitz more and being able to do a lot more things in the [tackle] box. I'm comfortable in the box, I don't mind it. Just being able to move around, whether it's star, nickel, linebacker or even in the deep part. It's just going to make our team that much stronger."
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