The Los Angeles Chargers finished the 2020 season 7-9 and third place in the AFC West. Despite not having a great season overall, the team has a bright future to look forward to. Justin Herbert came in and impressed immediately and is a finalist for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He finished his rookie campaign with 4,336 passing yards and 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. His passing yards, touchdowns, and 396 completions were all NFL rookie records.
Following the season, head coach Anthony Lynn was given the boot. On Sunday, they named former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach. Let’s take a look at their season along with naming a few individual award-winners.
What Went Right
As mentioned, Herbert was one of the big positives for the Chargers this season. He was unexpectedly given the starting nod in Week 2 when Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung while receiving an injection. Herbert completed 22-of-31 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown while also running one in for a score. After two more impressive starts against the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chargers named him starter for the remainder of the season prior to their Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Against the tough Tampa Bay defense, Herbert completed 20-of-25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, earning him praise from Tom Brady and Bruce Arians. That was the first of seven-straight games he threw for two or more touchdown passes. He threw for three scores in four of the seven and four in the game versus the Rams. The sixth overall pick finished the year with a 66.6% completion rate.
What Went Wrong
The Chargers had trouble closing games out, as seven of their nine losses were within one score. Normally, being able to keep games close would be evidence of a team making progress, but this team had a top-10 offense and defense in yardage gained and allowed. Their roster is full of talent, and their downfall came down to coaching, evidenced by their firing of Lynn following the season. A number of the Chargers best players, including Austin Ekeler, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram wound up on injured reserve throughout the season. That does not excuse the team in any way, but health will be a key going into next season.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Justin Herbert
Just give all the offensive accolades to Herbert. The likely winner of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Herbert was a stud as soon as he stepped in for Los Angeles. The Chargers went from one top quarterback in Philip Rivers to one who likely has a higher ceiling. There isn’t much else that can be said about Herbert and the future is bright, as the Chargers now have a new franchise quarterback.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Justin Herbert
Duh. Herbert is going to win the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award as he broke the rookie record for passing touchdowns in a season with 31. He also added five more touchdowns on the ground. Needless to say, the Chargers have found the man they will be building around.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Kenneth Murray
Murray gets this by default, as the only other defensive rookie was Alohi Gilman, who didn’t see much action. That said, Murray wound up having a solid season after being thrust into a larger role due to the season-ending injury to Drue Tranquill. He finished with 107 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, and three pass deflections. His lone sack came in his best game of the season against the New England Patriots in Week 13, as he also had 12 solo tackles, two of them for a loss.
Biggest Surprise – Michael Davis
Davis signed with Los Angeles as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He was a capable starting cornerback the past three seasons. Surprisingly, he was the most utilized cornerback for the Chargers this season, on the field for 92% of the team’s defensive snaps. He had 64 tackles, 14 passes defensed, and three interceptions while facing some of the league’s top receivers and was the top cornerback for the team.
Biggest Disappointment – Casey Hayward
This correlates well with Davis being the biggest surprise, as Hayward has been one of the Chargers’ top defenders. However, he was unreliable this season. He allowed 36 catches on 75 targets for 610 yards. Part of the reason for his decline was the numerous lower-body injuries he suffered. Regardless, he was nonetheless a disappointment when he was on the field.
One Burning Question
How Will Herbert Deal with the Coaching Change?
Now that the Chargers are bringing in Brandon Staley as their new head coach, how will that affect Herbert in his sophomore season? Will he be able to pick up right where he left off, or will there be a bit of a learning curve? Given that Staley is a defensive-minded coach, it may actually benefit him greatly. Staley could go over with Herbert what opposing defenses will try to do to slow him down. He is also a former quarterback who understands both sides of the ball greatly.