COSTA MESA — The air horn cut through the early-morning buzz of Day 8 of the Chargers’ training camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, signaling the start to their workday. It was 8:45 a.m. Friday, time to begin a 15-minute walk-through before a period of stretching followed by the start of practice.
All-pro safety Derwin James Jr. took his position in the Chargers’ secondary, as he has for each of the past seven days of practice. He wore his No. 3 light blue jersey with a white long-sleeved T-shirt underneath. Like everyone else in the walk-through, he was helmet-less.
When the air horn sounded again at 9 a.m., he walked to the sideline while his teammates took their customary spots on the field and began to stretch and then participate in 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams drills. James remained there, watching, cheering and coaching.
It’s been that way since Day 1, while James awaits a contract extension. The days have slipped by during his “hold-in” and the question had to be asked Friday: Wouldn’t the Chargers be better off with James on the field and participating so they could see what their defense would look like for their Sept. 11 opener?
Renaldo Hill, the Chargers’ defensive coordinator, referred to James as “the Alpha guy,” so wouldn’t it make sense for James to be with his teammates, many of whom are new to the team? After all, the 90-player training camp roster features 18 new names on defense since the end of last season.
“He’s getting all the walk-through parts of it, so mentally, he’s locked into the game,” Hill said. “We know what he can do physically. It’ll work itself out when it’s time. In the meantime, he’s doing everything he can do to stay involved and we’re trying to indulge him and make sure he’s part of the walk-throughs.
“He’s still the Alpha guy when he steps out here. You know the point is coming when he’s going to get out on the field. I feel like he’s always near me, so he’s part of it all.”
Cornerback J.C. Jackson is one of the 18 newcomers on defense, having signed with the Chargers as a free agent during the offseason after four years with the New England Patriots, including his first Pro Bowl selection last season. He would like to see James on the field sooner than later.
“Derwin is a great football player,” Jackson said. “We’ve known each other since we were kids (growing up in Florida). I can’t wait to get him out here on the field. I know he’s dealing with other things. I can’t control that, but I can’t wait to get him out here. It’s going to be very fun.”
Jackson made a highlight reel-caliber interception near the end of the 11-on-11 portion of practice, snaring a pass from quarterback Easton Stick that glanced off the hands of a diving wide receiver Trevon Bradford. The offense was in a hurry-up mode when Stick tried to connect with Bradford.
“That’s team defense,” Jackson said, eagerly giving the credit away.
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Jackson had 25 interceptions in 62 regular-season games while with the Patriots, including eight in 2021 and a career-high nine in 2020. He also had 58 tackles last season and forced one fumble. There have been adjustments to make since joining the Chargers, but nothing too stressful.
“I’m getting the hang of it,” he said. “Switching to a new team, you’ve got to adjust, you’ve got to learn. It’s a process. I’m coming out here each and every day getting to know my teammates, my coaches and having fun competing. Football is all about having fun. Just play ball.”
Certainly, playing with outside linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, two Pro Bowl selections, could prove to be a lot of fun for Jackson.
“I never played with pass-rushers like that,” he said. “We’re going to see what that’s like this year. I’m so excited to play with those guys. I’m ready. I’m very excited. I believe I can (force) more turnovers with those two guys going at the quarterback, so that should be fun.”
BOSA AND MACK (PART 2)
The Chargers gave Bosa and Mack an extra day of rest Friday after Thursday’s scheduled day off for the team.
“We have a big ramp-up with the pads coming on, so we wanted to make sure that those guys are ready to go for those practices coming up (including a scrimmage Sunday),” Hill said. “They were ready to go, but it’s a good chance for us to get out here and evaluate some of the other guys.”