Derwin James Jr. is a three-time Pro Bowler for the Los Angeles Chargers, and new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter wants to take full advantage of the 27-year-old safety’s multifaceted skill set.

“I’m really, really excited about Derwin, and I’ve gotten a chance to get to know him a little bit, just an unbelievable person, unbelievable leader,” Minter told the Chargers team website in an interview published Monday. “The type of mindset that we want to have here on defense is really kind of how he plays already. I’m excited just to sort of try to unleash Derwin.

“I think he can really affect the game in a lot of ways. He’s a dynamic blitzer, he’s dynamic close to the ball. An elite cover guy, particularly on tight ends. And then he’s a physical presence over the middle of the field at the safety position. We want to put him in a position to use his strengths and do all that stuff to the best of his ability.”

James has been a linchpin for the Chargers. Last season, he had one interception, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, seven passes defended and a career-high 125 combined tackles in an otherwise poor season for L.A.’s defense. As a whole, the Chargers surrendered 249.8 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL), 113.2 rushing yards (tied for 17th), 362.9 total yards (28th) and 23.4 points (24th). The defense is a big reason why the Chargers finished 5-12 and fired coach Brandon Staley in mid-December.

James has logged 100-plus combined tackles in each of his four complete seasons with the Chargers. He missed the bulk of 2019 due to a foot injury and the 2020 season altogether due to a knee injury.

Minter was previously the defensive coordinator for Michigan under Jim Harbaugh, who’s now the head coach of the Chargers. The 40-year-old Minter was also a defensive assistant under Jim’s brother, John Harbaugh, with the Baltimore Ravens from 2017-20. 

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In each of Minter’s two seasons in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines finished in the top three in the Big Ten in both points and yards surrendered, allowing just 9.5 points per game in their 2023 championship campaign.

The Chargers selected James with the No. 17 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Florida State.

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