We have been previewing the AFC West division the last couple of days. Sticking with that theme, let’s preview the Los Angeles Chargers in this article. Will Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert continue to improve even further in his second season?
The Chargers went 7-9 during the 2020 season but should improve upon that record in 2021 (gamblingsites.com). A big question mark remains on the defensive side of the ball. The Chargers coaching staff hopes that getting star safety Derwin James back from injury will help bolster their young secondary.
Former Oregon standout QB Justin Herbert had a fantastic rookie season by throwing 31 touchdowns and only 10 picks last year. The 6-6 236 pounder showed a tremendous amount of poise and proved that he was ready to lead an NFL offense. Herbert is also a sneaky good runner, as evidenced by his five rushing touchdowns last season.
The Chargers’ running game should be much better this year since they picked up Rashawn Slater in the first round of the draft. Slater was a punishing offensive lineman during his collegiate tenure at Northwestern and should open up more holes for starting RB Austin Ekeler this season. Ekeler only played in 10 games last year but rushed for 530 yards and a touchdown. The 26-year old caught two touchdowns as well.
The wide receiver corps is stacked with plenty of big targets for Herbert. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both have good size and have no fear of running routes over the middle of the field. Allen caught eight touchdown passes in 2020, which tied his career-high. The Chargers also picked up another playmaker at wideout by drafting former Tennessee standout Josh Palmer in the third round.
The Charger defense struggled to get off the field on third down last year. This unit ranked near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game (26.6). However, the secondary ranked 9th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (223.6).
Star defensive end Joey Bosa will continue to terrorize opposing quarterbacks and will look to improve on his 7.5 sacks from last season. Derwin James, Michael Davis, and newcomer Asante Samuel Jr. (second-round pick from Florida State) could form one of the best secondaries in the AFC as long as James can stay healthy the entire year.
2021 Special Teams
Former Ohio State speedster K.J. Hill comes back this season as the Chargers premier punt and kick return man. Hill returned 12 punts for 83 yards in 2020 and will look to improve on those numbers this year. Wide Receiver Joe Reed (435 kick return yards LY) will also help out on kick returns in 2021.
28-year-old Ty Long returns as the punter for the Chargers in 2021. Long averaged 46.8 yards per punt last season. Former Miami Hurricane standout Michael Badgley will again be the placekicker for the Chargers. Badgley made 24 out of 33 field goals in 2020.