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    Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. looking to clean up his play vs. Chiefs
    • October 19, 2023

    COSTA MESA — Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. will renew hostilities with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Sunday, a personal rivalry between two superb players whose meeting near the goal line on Sept. 15, 2022, at Arrowhead Stadium resulted in a body-slam heard around the football world.

    A quick review: Kelce appeared headed for a touchdown after catching a pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes before James accosted him, bear-hugged him and threw him to the ground like a sack of potatoes, the football flying from his hands as he hit the grass with a tremendous thud.

    It was all legal.

    No harm, no foul.

    Kelce later joked about it in hilarious fashion on his weekly podcast with his brother, Jason, a Philadelphia Eagles center. What else could he do or say? Kelce got the worst of his meeting with James, a fellow multiple Pro Bowl selection, including in 2022. There was no sense crying foul.

    Plays such as the one against Kelce have established James as one of the league’s most dynamic defensive backs, a player who has earned a reputation as someone to watch whenever the Chargers take the field.

    But, near the end of the 2022 season and into the start of this one, plenty of eyes have been on him, but for all the wrong reasons.

    James’ aggressive tackling has resulted in a number of costly penalties, starting with a helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Ashton Dulin of the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 26, 2022, sending both players into the NFL’s concussion protocol. James was fined $25,462 by the league.

    Earlier this season, James was penalized for unnecessary roughness on a third-and-13 play against the Tennessee Titans, setting up a first down at the Chargers’ 28-yard line that ended up aiding a touchdown drive in the third quarter of an eventual 27-24 overtime loss on Sept. 17.

    Then, and most notably, James was penalized for two personal fouls on Monday night – one on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott that aided a second-quarter drive into the red zone that stalled at the 13-yard line and another on tight end Jake Ferguson that set up a go-ahead field goal on the final play of the first half.

    The Chargers lost to the Cowboys, 20-17.

    James addressed the penalty issues earlier this week with reporters, specifically his need to avoid the high, late hits that have drawn flags since his brutal collision with Dulin last season in Indianapolis, a tackle that Chargers coach Brandon Staley initially defended after the game.

    “I’m already going low, and then guys are ducking,” James explained Wednesday. “I just have to get low, I guess. I’m a professional, they pay me to do my job. If they’re going to call it like that, I have to be responsible and not hurt my team and get better from it. It’s that simple.”

    Asked if he’s been thinking about adjusting his tackling technique and avoiding future costly penalties since hitting Dulin last season, James said, “I think I am a little bit. But, like I said, I’m not here to referee what they need to call. I’m here to play football and help my team win games.”


    James had this to say about facing the reigning Super Bowl champions: “It definitely feels like an important game for us. We haven’t gotten off to the start that we want (with a 2-3 record). We get a new opportunity this week. We have to get out there and fix what we need to fix.”

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    Of the keys to defending Kelce, in particular, and the Chiefs in general, James said, “Doing my job, knowing my defense, executing, going out there giving them different looks and changing it up on them. You have to be physical. You have to go out there and you have to guard him. That’s all it comes down to.”

    Of containing Mahomes, James said, “He’s one of the best (quarterbacks) that we have to offer in this league. He presents a challenge for the defense. As a defense, it’s on us to stop guys like that. We just have to be ready for the challenge. I can’t wait for Sunday to get that opportunity.”


    Defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia and wide receiver Jalen Guyton, who began the season on the PUP list, joined their teammates for practice Thursday. The Chargers have a 21-day window in which to activate the two players, who each suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2022 season.

    Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is stopped short of the goal line by Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. during a game last season in Kansas City, Mo. Plays like that have established James as one of the league’s most dynamic defensive backs, but his aggressive tackling has led to some costly penalties so far this season. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

    ​ Orange County Register