After his 2018 rookie season, Derwin James was riding high.
The safety earned both first and second-team All-Pro honors and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
But then, everything changed.
James suffered a foot injury in training camp which caused him to miss 11 games of the 2019 regular season. He returned Week 13 against the Denver Broncos, and finished the season with 32 total tackles and one pass defensed.
With 2020's training camp now in full swing, James said he's approaching this season with the same hunger we've seen from him in years past but with an added edge that came from not playing all 16 games last season.
"I'm hungry every year," James said. "Rookie year I was hungry. I'm still hungry; I'm even more hungry. It does put that chip on your shoulder, not being out there the whole year. It does give you an extra little flame, but I'm always hungry."
While missing so much time was challenging, James admitted he learned a lot when he was sidelined and it's insight he's taking with him into 2020.
"I learned patience," he mentioned. "Going through the injury and going through stuff you can't control, you just gotta stick to it. Stick to the rehab and take it day by day. It really just makes you have patience cause you want to be out there and you want to help your team as much as you can, but, you're not able to, so you have to find other ways to learn and keep yourself engaged in the game. That's what I kind of did with those five games I came back; I wasn't too far behind.
"(I'm) not taking nothing for granted. It could be your last play walking out, you never know. You've gotta approach it that way and take the game like that. Really, play like it's your last."
While the Chargers defense includes playmakers like James, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward and more, they added some new additions in free agency including Linval Joseph and Chris Harris Jr.
A lot goes into translating talent to the field, but James says it starts with finding the unit's identity.
In previous years, that identity could be forged during the preseason. But as we know, 2020 isn't a normal year. While James said it'll be a process for them to figure out from camp and on, he's confident the unit will come together as one.
"I feel every great defense that I've seen or I've been around starts with an identity. I feel like we gotta develop the identity that we want to have on defense. Everybody just doing their parts. We're deep enough where I don't feel like nobody has to do extra. We've just gotta come out and do what we need to do and take care of our part."
Take a look at some photos from the Bolts first time in helmets at Chargers Training Camp 2020, presented by SoFi.