AFC West Rival Rundown: Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers look to rebound from a 7-9 record in 2020 with a new head coach and plenty of talented pieces.

The recently-moved Los Angeles Chargers missed the postseason last season with a disappointing 7-9 record. But there were certainly lights and potential answers found during their playoff-missing season.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was their day-one starter going into the season. But Taylor was hospitalized in Week 2 after a Chargers’ team doctor punctured his lung, which threw first-round pick Justin Herbert into action early.

Despite their record, Herbert shined in his opportunity. Herbert took home offensive player of the year and broke the rookie touchdown record with 31 touchdowns. Even more impressive considering Taylor started Week 1.

Strengths: Quarterback

As Herbert comes off a historic rookie season, the Chargers are certainly in a great spot quarterback-wise so far. Sadly for them, the AFC West features Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. You could also see Aaron Rodgers being traded to either the Denver Broncos or Las Vegas Raiders later this year.

Though his rookie records may go away with the extended 17-game season, Herbert impacted the game greatly to have such a secure position.

Herbert may continue to develop around this franchise, his 6’6″ sized frame, along with his throwing talent make him a potential franchise quarterback. The NFL could see Herbert improve, especially with the receiving threats they currently have.

Strengths: Secondary (if healthy)

From a talent standpoint, secondary certainly stands out for the Chargers. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward Jr. and Chris Harris Jr. both are capable of covering the best receivers throughout their careers.

Add in a healthy Derwin James, who was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2018, but has yet to be healthy since. That year it is notable that the Chargers went 12-4, so having James back would be vital for a defense that struggled to get stops last year.

But these three pieces, along with cornerback Desmond King II make the Chargers a really intriguing defense to watch on game day.

Strengths: Pass catchers

One huge piece returning is four-time pro bowler Keenan Allen, who was plagued with long-term injuries consistently early in his career. Since then, Allen has stepped us as a premier route runner in recent years.

Allen has recorded 1,100 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. Allen was eight yards off from four straight seasons of 1,000 yards after he missed a couple of games, according to Pro Football Reference.

Along with that, he has totaled 100 or more catches in three of the last four seasons. The production of Allen has certainly made me wonder why he isn’t talked about more among other top wide receivers.

Running back Austin Ekeler has shown his dual-threat capabilities in the passing game recently. The 2019 season saw Ekeler have 92 catches and nearly 1,000 yards. Last season Ekeler appeared in 10 games last year and caught 54 passes.

These two, along with third receiving option Mike Williams could become troublesome for the Chiefs, like how Chiefs Kingdom saw with Williams in 2018 when the Chargers came back last second to win 29-28 in Week 15.

Strengths: Joey Bosa

The Ohio State pass-rusher has kept the brand on point with his five-season career. Bosa has totaled 47.5 sacks, with three seasons being double-digit sacks.

Bosa when able to play a complete season is going to create problems. An offensive line needs to know where he is at all times. Offensives certainly scheme away from his side.

This may be easier for teams to do now that the Chargers are missing their other pass rusher.

Weaknesses: Edge Depth

Besides Bosa, the Chargers do not appear to be making headway with resigning edge rusher Melvin Ingram. The Chargers drafted Ingram in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Ingram totaled 49 sacks in his nearly decade-long time with the Chargers. But without him, the Chargers don’t have reliable pieces to go with besides Bosa. A younger rookie could step up, but is a big question mark and will make scheming much easier against him.

The AFC West favorite Chiefs should be able to exploit this lack of depth easier given several offensive line upgrades.

Weaknesses: Injuries

Every year it seems the Chargers are dealing with injuries, most notably having James out the last two seasons. Especially since he is arguably the best in the secondary. But overall, this team with all their talent can be really solid.

Even competing for the AFC West and compete for a wildcard spot. They do need their star pieces and major contributors to remain healthy in order to do that, especially given their depth.