Versatile James pays dividends for Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Derwin James (33) tackles San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) as he scrambles out of the pocket in the third quarter at StubHub Center on Sunday.Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers rookie Derwin James has played many roles this season.

James, who was the 17th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, traditionally is a free safety. On Sunday, he shuffled to strong safety, linebacker and even defensive end in the Chargers’ 29-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

The 22-year-old James made an impact with 2 1/2 minutes left, blasting San Francisco quarterback C.J. Beathard with a hit that sent the ball into the hands of defensive end Isaac Rochell.

James became the first defensive back in NFL history to record sacks in three of his first four career games. He also had seven tackles versus the 49ers.

“He’s just a ballplayer, man,” slot corner Desmond King said, via the Los Angeles Times. “He’s all over the field. He’s covering people, pressuring the quarterback, getting sacks. We move him around a lot. We want to kind of play with the quarterback’s head, and he got to the quarterback a couple of times today.”

One quarterback, however, was singing his praises: Philip Rivers.

“He’s been great,” Rivers said. “He has the demeanor, and he’s made the plays obviously, but he has the demeanor of one of those double-digit year safeties. That’s what he is. He will ascend in a hurry to that kind of role. That’s just his demeanor (with) the way he plays, the passion he has and the aggression he plays with. He was a heck of a pick. I’m glad he’s on our side.”

James kept the humble approach and thanked his coaches.

“I think it’s my coaches preparing me,” James said in a nod to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, defensive backs coach Ron Milus and assistant defensive backs coach Chris Harris.

“They have a lot do with it. Also, for God blessing me with my ability. Like I said, when I mix that together, you see what happens.”

James was Florida State’s lone All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selection last season after being the Seminoles’ second-leading tackler with 84 stops. He also had two interceptions and one sack.

James recorded 186 tackles over his three seasons at Florida State. He also had three interceptions and two forced fumbles.