If the Los Angeles Chargers have a resurgent season in 2020, their defense will play a significant part in that effort. Already, two members of the unit have landed in PFF50, Pro Football Focus' list of the top 50 players entering the upcoming season. Another defensive back from Los Angeles increases that figure to three, as third-year safety Derwin James Jr. came in at No. 31 on the list.
In a certain sense, James represents the largest addition the Chargers received this offseason. Though he enters his third year with the franchise, he missed all but the final month of the 2019 season. By that point, Los Angeles had effectively fallen out of playoff contention and James had yet to fully recover from the broken foot he suffered during training camp. Still, the defensive back made an instant impact upon his return to the field, playing all but one defensive snap and lining up at safety, linebacker, edge rusher, and cornerback in a tightly contested matchup with the Denver Broncos on Dec. 1.
Now fully healthy, James could have his most productive season yet in 2020. The additions made around him -- the signing of All-Pro slot corner Chris Harris, the selection of linebacker Kenneth Murray in the first round -- could free the Chargers to move around the defense more freely and better optimize his play-making skills. Should that occur, James can play more frequently near the line of scrimmage where his size, speed, and smarts make him a nightmare for opposing offenses.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH