How Derwin James’ injury impacts the AFC West race

Los Angeles Chargers

One of the NFL’s brightest young stars is slated to miss significant time. How does Derwin James’ injury impact the Los Angeles Chargers and the AFC West race?

Losing a player to injury in the preseason is never a good thing. When it’s a star, like Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James, the blows just keep coming.

Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the second-year defensive back suffered a stress fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his foot and is slated to miss a “significant amount of time.” The Chargers will continue to evaluate James and plan a course of action from there.

An All-Pro and Pro Bowl player in his first season, James led one of the NFL’s most potent defenses. Finishing the year with 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a trio of interceptions, he brought energy and versatility to the league’s eighth-best unit in points allowed. If James’ absence drags deep into the regular season, how could it impact the Chargers’ pursuit of the AFC West crown?

Opening up the season against the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, Los Angeles is going to need all the help it can get on the defensive side of the football. If Andrew Luck is healthy come Week 1, that will make for three consecutive games against good quarterbacks. The schedule softens a bit for the following two games but by then, Anthony Lynn’s squad could be behind the eight ball.

The reigning AFC West champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, completely retooled on defense this offseason. In addition to expecting to improve in that aspect, general manager Brett Veach added both Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson to arguably the best offense the NFL has to offer. Luckily for Los Angeles, these two teams won’t square off for the first time until Week 11.

Outside of the Chargers and Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos are expected to bring up the rear of the division. The Raiders’ acquisition of Antonio Brown should help quarterback Derek Carr, but there are too many holes in the roster for Oakland to compete. Denver is counting on a career resurgence from 34-year-old Joe Flacco, which speaks for itself. The division is a two-horse race for the most part.

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James is one of the best young players in the NFL. Any amount of time he misses will be costly to his team. Drafting safety Nasir Adderley could help ease the pain a bit, but relying on him to replace James’ elite production immediately would be foolish. Hopefully James returns to action sooner rather than later, for the Chargers’ sake.

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