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Derwin James returns to Chargers with overflowing optimism following knee injury

A lot has happened since Derwin James last suited up for the Chargers.

His coach, Anthony Lynn, was fired after a disappointing campaign, but Los Angeles also discovered its franchise quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert. The Chargers also replaced Lynn with the defensive coordinator of the crosstown Rams, Brandon Staley.

James has plenty to do to get up to speed. He started that process Monday, and his new coach liked what he saw.

"He is clear for full participation, which is a real credit to our sports performance team, his performance team and himself," Staley said Monday. "He looks great. He sounds great, as you know. One of his strengths as a football player is his leadership, and that energy that he gives everybody each and every day. You can see that he is a multiplayer out there. I mean, from the minute that I got hired -- guys, I met this guy at my press conference and I felt better about our chances. When he's out there, our chances increase by a whole bunch. He's ready to play."

James is returning from a torn meniscus suffered before the start of the 2020 season, and he's coming back to a role that might be a little different than it was under Lynn. It could include playing more deep safety, for example, and James said no matter what is asked of him, he'll be able to do it.

"I love it. I can't wait," James said of Staley's new scheme. "I can't share too much about what we're going to be doing, but like I said, I'm very excited for this scheme. Just know that we're going to make a lot of plays."

The Chargers could use more game-changing plays in 2021. They ranked near the middle of the pack in most key defensive statistics last season, but finished 23rd in points allowed.

With James back in the fold, the Chargers have a better chance of turning that around -- and perhaps much more -- in 2021.

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