Why Khalil Mack, Derwin James are Chargers to watch vs. 49ers, Greg Papa says

Why Papa believes Mack, James are Chargers to watch vs. 49ers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers' matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday has an abundance of storylines, be it how San Francisco will utilize Elijah Mitchell in his return and so on.

However, 49ers broadcaster Greg Papa will be watching something else: The Chargers' defense at Levi's Stadium.

In the "Ask Papa" segment on the latest episode of 49ers Talk, Papa explained to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco why he will be keeping a close eye on Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack and safety Derwin James.

"I can't wait to see this Derwin James matchup with George Kittle," Papa said to Maiocco. "My eyes are going to be where Derwin James and where Khalil goes."

Regarding Mack, Papa kept it simple when describing just how much of a force the 31-year-old is on that end of the field.

"Khalil Mack will just lift you up and just put you on roller skates or on a blocking sled, he's that good," Papa said of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Halfway through the 2022 NFL season, Mack is tied for 12th in sacks (6.0) and tied for 20th with seven tackles for loss.

As for James, Papa likened him to the Los Angeles Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey with how both players seem to be everywhere at any given time.

"They're going to blitz Derwin James, they're going to have him, on the outside, pseudo-defensive end, to shore up their leaky run defense, he'll line up everywhere," Papa added. "He's a great player."

As it stands, James is fifth in the league in solo tackles with 30, and his 20 receptions allowed are tied for seventh in the NFL, per PFF.

That said, Papa isn't the only one to rave about James' defensive prowess.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had high praise for the 26-year-old when asked about him on Nov. 9.

"Derwin, I think it as highly of Derwin as any safety in this league," Shanahan told reporters. " He was that good coming out in college, he was a guy we really liked and everything he's done with the Chargers has kind of been as expected."

RELATED: Five 49ers to watch as Deebo rejoins potent offense vs. Chargers

With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo set to unleash the 49ers' new "nightmare" offense against the Chargers, it will be interesting to see how Los Angeles responds.

At any rate, 49ers fans should expect to see a hard-fought matchup, especially considering San Francisco will be facing a challenging defense, as Papa noted.

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast