Whoever coined the phrase lightning never strikes the same place twice, the Los Angeles Chargers would like a word.Second-year All Pro DB Derwin James suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his foot Thursday, an injury that’ll sideline one of the most exciting young talents in the league indefinitely and extends yet another offseason of tumult for a Chargers club that in the spring appeared to have arguably the NFL’s most talented roster.
Ironically, it was purely fortuitous that James was even available for the Chargers to select with the 17th overall pick a year ago. All the ex-Seminole did as a rookie en route to first-team All-Pro honors was log 109 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 15 passes defensed in perhaps the most rounded campaign by a defensive back in football.
Unfortunately, James’ injury now becomes the latest piece of offseason adversity dealt to a Chargers team that’s already without Pro Bowl RB Melvin Gordon (contract holdout that appears poised to bleed into the season), Pro Bowl LT Russell Okung (pulmonary embolism that nearly took his life in the offseason and leaves his 2019 status up in the air) and Pro Bowl WR Keenan Allen, who underwent minor ankle surgery this week but is said to be in line to return for Week 1.
Last season, the Chargers lost breakout candidate TE Hunter Henry to a torn ACL in their first OTA and saw Jason Verrett’s season also end before it began. Two seasons ago, then-rookie second-round OG Forrest Lamp — tabbed as the centerpiece of the perpetually broken O-line rebuild — tore his ACL in the spring. He’s yet to start a game. One year earlier, it was Joey Bosa holding out, then injuring his hamstring.
And we’ll assume we don’t have to remind everyone of the Chargers’ recent kicker carousel, right?
If there’s good news it’s that the Chargers appeared to get another draft steal in their secondary in April, when dynamic Delaware product Nasir Adderley fell in their laps in Round 2, and they still have Pro Bowler Desmond King, who is nothing if not versatile and can probably help fill in at safety, in addition to his outstanding work at nickel and in the return game.
Again, they’re not in the conversation for the NFL’s most talented lot without significant options in reserve, but the depth is a lot more encouraging in both backfields than it is along the O-line, which finally appeared like it could be a strength before Okung’s scary medical emergency. Even the brilliant Philip Rivers figures to suffer if his veteran blind-side blocker isn’t back quickly.
But Gordon, with all due respect, is a running back who wasn’t missed by the Chargers while he was out injured late last season thanks to seventh-round rookie Justin Jackson and to a lesser extent former undrafted gem Austin Ekeler. And Allen, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2017 and perhaps the game’s most underrated receiver, has repeatedly shown his toughness and resolve.
Anthony Lynn was a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate in his maiden head-coaching voyage last season because, despite all the adversity, he led the Bolts to 13 victories — including the franchise’s first in the postseason since 2013. It’s certainly possible with his and Rivers’ leadership that the Chargers can weather this storm, too, in a division in transition with the Chiefs coming off a ton of defensive turnover, the Broncos tabbing a new head coach and quarterback and the Raiders … how much time do you have?
But if there’s more bad news, well, unfortunately it’s a safe bet that it’ll strike the Chargers before long.