The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t out of the playoff race just yet, and now they’ll have a couple of big reinforcements for the final quarter of the 2019 NFL season, activating a pair of All-Pro safeties from injured reserve on Saturday.
The 17th overall pick of the 2018 draft, James lived up to his first-round billing — and then some — during his first season in Los Angeles, racking up 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Considered a centerpiece of the Chargers’ defense entering 2019, he underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot prior to the season, landed on IR in early September and sat out the team’s first 11 games.
Phillips, a sixth-year veteran of the team who originally joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, logged a career-high 94 tackles despite starting just seven games in a breakout 2018 campaign, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors alongside James. An experienced special teamer, he opened 2019 as a starter in the back end of the secondary before a Week 2 broken arm sent him to IR.
Both safeties were eligible to return after sitting out at least eight games, but there might not be a better time for the Chargers to welcome back two Pro Bowl defenders. L.A. already touts a top-five pass defense but has lost two straight and is in dire need of divisional victories at 4-7, with the Kansas City Chiefs leading the West at 7-4.