Chargers review: Derwin James Jr. could be practicing again this week


The Chargers’ 17-14 victory Sunday over the Tennessee Titans, coupled with two other favorable results, vaulted him into sixth place in the AFC’s overall standings. The top seven teams will make the playoffs. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next:


Standout safety Derwin James Jr., a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the man Chargers coach Brandon Staley calls the heartbeat of the defense, could be back on the practice field later this week. James was sidelined for the past two games because of a quadriceps injury.

The Chargers (8-6) have three games remaining and they can use all the help James can provide them against the Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1), the Rams (4-9 going into Monday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers) and the Denver Broncos (4-10) as they fight for a playoff spot.

“You expect to play better with one of the top players in the league out there,” Staley said Monday. “It gave us a chance to take a look at guys in leading roles (without James in the lineup). It was good for our football team to play without him and win. Our record without him got a lot better.

“When we get him back, we’ll be that much better.”

Staley said there was “no new update” on edge rusher Joey Bosa, who has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25 and then underwent surgery. The Chargers hope Bosa will be back on the practice field sooner than later and to play before season’s end.


The Chargers limited Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to 145 yards and one touchdown on 10-for-28 passing in their 23-17 victory Dec. 11 and then held Titans running back Derrick Henry to a relatively modest 104 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries on Sunday.

“One thing I’ve liked the last two weeks is how you’ve got to match up with different styles,” Staley said when asked about the Chargers’ strong defensive play in victories over two teams seemingly destined for the playoffs. “Miami and Tennessee could not be any more different.”

Staley referred to Miami’s reliance on the pass and the Titans’ preference to run.

He also said he’s noticed a change in the Chargers’ defensive play since the bye week. They didn’t always get the desired results by game’s end, but he said he believed there has been steady improvement since a 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 6, their first game after the bye week.

“We’ve made some good strides the past two games,” he said. “I’ve probably felt more energy from the whole group since I’ve been here. I think it’s been hard to have max energy when you’re going through so much zig-zag (because of injuries). Guys are comfortable in their roles now. Guys are comfortable in the game plan.”


Staley said he didn’t mind being asked again and again about the Chargers’ difficulties scoring in the third quarter of their games this season. They were blanked in the third quarter Sunday by the Titans, and they haven’t scored a third-quarter touchdown since Oct. 9 against the Cleveland Browns.

Overall, the Chargers have been outscored 83-26 in third quarters this season.

“You have to keep asking because it keeps happening,” Staley said.

Staley said the Chargers must produce plays that result in big gains. They must avoid plays for losses, whether they’re sacks or penalties, especially in third-down situations. They must score touchdowns once they get into the red zone, that critical patch of ground inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.

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The Chargers four third-quarter possessions Sunday resulted in three punts and an interception. They never made it inside the red zone, with their most promising possession ending with the second of Justin Herbert’s two interceptions on a second-and-eight play at the Titans’ 27-yard line.


The Chargers’ delay of game penalty on their game-winning drive was a bit of a head-scratcher. Herbert had spiked the ball to stop the clock with the ball on the Tennessee 20-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. The plan was to take one crack at the end zone and then kick a field goal if it failed.

In hindsight, Staley said he should have had Herbert run the clock down before spiking the ball, forgoing what proved to be a futile pass into the end zone. The delay of game penalty turned a 38-yard field goal into a 43-yard field goal for Cameron Dicker with four seconds remaining.

“It’s completely my fault,” Staley said.

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