The Chargers held practice on Monday, but they did not have safety Derwin James on the field. He sustained an injury during Sunday's practice and left early. The team released a statement saying the young safety injured his knee, and they have no timetable on his return.
"There's a lot of speculation about his injury," said Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. "When we know more about that, we'll be in touch. But right now, I don't want to get into too much detail about what happened with him because we don't really know the final results yet. Let's just leave it at that."
As of right now, the Chargers don't know how long they will be without James. This loss hurts. James is an all-pro safety who will miss his second start of the regular season in a row. You could tell how excited number 33 was to be on the field from the beginning of training camp. He would be yelling, and getting guys fired up.
As the Bolts know all too well, next man up.
So, who could it be?
Well, on Monday morning, head coach Anthony Lynn spoke to the media. He was asked about the possibility of signing free-agent safety Earl Thomas, who has been in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's system before.
"We have a lot of guys here in this camp that know our system really well," said Lynn. "Since you guys are consistently telling me how stacked we are in the secondary, why the hell would I be looking anywhere else?"
So, Lynn is thinking in-house.
"I like the depth that we have in our secondary," he said. "So, we have to make some different combinations, but we have some good players in the secondary."
One of the four-year coach's options was moving free safety Rayshawn Jenkins to strong safety. Jenkins has grown into his role since the start of last season. He led the team in interceptions (3) last season and is looking to have a big year. Jenkins said he has worked on a lot of different areas of his game in the offseason.
Now with Jenkins moving to strong safety, that means that maybe 2019 second-round pick Nasir Adderley could be moving into the free safety position. Adderley missed 12 games last season due to a hamstring injury. He is recovered and has been progressing well during training camp. The time could be now for the fan-favorite to get some playing time.
There are other options.
"I've never considered Desmond a corner," Lynn said. "He's always been a nickel guy and pretty much a safety for us."
Lynn is talking about Demond King. He has been practicing at times at the strong safety spot during training camp. King is a versatile player who can play anywhere. Last season wasn't his best by any means. He had a subpar season and is looking to bounce back in 2020. He seems motivated on the practice field, and with Chris Harris Jr. slated to be the nickel corner, this could be a new position where King can help make plays.
The last option could be rookie safety, Alohi Gilman. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Bolts out of Notre Dame and was James back up.
"Most definitely," said Gilman. "I am a competitor, just like everybody else. For me, this is a great opportunity for me to step in a role where I can play a little more early on in my career. I got a lot of room to grow. A lot of room to work at. But that is a day by day process and if my number is called, I will be ready for sure."
Gilman mentioned that James had been his mentor, and he offered up some prayers for the injured safety. He was drafted to back up James and be a part of the special teams. Now he may be called upon to be a more significant part of the defense. He is a sure tackler and could see more playing time this season.
Lastly, there could be a returning option. ESPN's NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler tweeted out that there is mutual interested between the Bolts and their former safety Jahleel Addae.
The Bolts could reunite with their former safety, but Lynn did say he liked his in-house options. Addae struggled in his final year in a Chargers uniform when he switched from strong to free safety to make room for rookie safety Derwin James. Addae knows the system and has the admiration of his former coaches and teammates, but it would be surprising if the team signed him just because of the shorten offseason and what shape Addae could be in since he is a free agent.
All in all, the Chargers will miss their young safety. It will be interesting to see how long he is out this season with the knee injury and how the team will try to make up his production. The Bolts defense has enough playmakers to keep the ship right until James comes back.