ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Throughout the 2018 season, as Ja’Wuan James watched film each week, one player caught his attention again and again.
“It's crazy,” James recalled at his introductory press conference on Friday. “You watch film all week on different teams and I just kept seeing this kid [RB Phillip] Lindsay just pop up, popping runs here, popping runs there. Now to be able to be on his team and block for him, I'm excited.”
At the time, James likely had little idea he would eventually block for the rookie who became the first-ever undrafted offensive player to make a Pro Bowl in his first season. But after signing a four-year contract with the Broncos, James could be more than just a road-paver for Lindsay in 2019.
He may be a pillar for the Broncos at right tackle for years to come.
The biggest factor in that coming to fruition will probably be James’ ability to fit in the Broncos’ new offense and help power a strong rushing attack, in addition to providing protection against talented pass rushers like the Chargers’ Joey Bosa.
With Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Munchak serving as the Broncos’ offensive line coach, James will have some of the best tutelage to bring him up to speed as he joins a new team, but at least as a run blocker, James thinks he’s already a good fit in a zone-blocking scheme from his experience with Dolphins.
"I love it,” James said. “I love it because not only do you get to have your athleticism part of it and running all day, but you get to be physical in the run game. That is a big part of any O-line. You get a chance to play on their side of the ball, the defensive line's side, and bring it to them every play and not just be sitting back. I'm excited about that. Like I said, I got to talk to Coach Munchak for about an hour upstairs. He got me all riled up right now."
Take a look back through Ja'Wuan James' football career with photos from his days at Tennessee through his time with the Dolphins.
With James’ talent and age, President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said he expects the 26-year-old tackle to be the Broncos’ long-term solution at the position.
“We really like him,” Elway said. “He’s a good fit for us with what we want to do with the zone scheme and outside-zone. He’s a physical guy and he plays hard. We’re excited about him. … We’re planning on him solidifying that right tackle for us. We really feel good about the two young tackles that we now have and what we’re doing. We’ll just continue to get better there.”
James, too, has the confidence that he can be a reliable force for the Broncos.
“I'm going to work hard,” James said, beginning to list reasons why he believes he can be the Broncos’ right tackle for years to come. “The scheme, like [Elway] said, it fits me well. Me being athletic and me doing it the past two years — I can't wait to get in here and actually get to do it.”
But James can’t rest now just because he’s moved to a new stage in his career.
“People talk about pressure and things like that,” James said. “I feel like I'm a guy who competes for myself all of the time. I think as long as I'm holding myself to the highest standard, I will be fine. I'm excited to get to work here. That is the biggest thing.
“I'm excited to get to work and win some ball games."