Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Team Preview

Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Team Preview

by August 4, 2021 0 comments

The Los Angeles Chargers finished with a 7-9 record in 2020. However, there were many positive takeaways. After Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung, Justin Herbert became the starter and shined. He threw for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. The team succeeded throughout the year, but was unable to close out games; seven of their losses were within one score. Casey Hayward struggled and is now no longer a part of the team, but with the emergence of Michael Davis, Chargers fans do not have much to worry about.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Team Previews.

Offseason Recap

Hiring a new head coach and strengthening their offensive line were the two most impactful moves the Chargers made during the offseason. The additions of Corey Linsley and Rashawn Slater make the offensive line much better, provided it can stay healthy. Brandon Staley is the new head coach in LA. He previously worked as the Rams’ defensive coordinator for the 2020 season and excelled. Staley’s bright young mind could improve the Chargers on defense next season. They also added a new offensive coordinator in Joe Lombardi.

Offense

It is likely that the Chargers’ offense is improved in 2021. With a revamped line, a new offensive coordinator, and another year of experience for Herbert, all signs point up for the offense. Austin Ekeler will look to have an impactful season both as a rusher and pass-catcher. Though Hunter Henry departed to the New England Patriots in the offseason, the Chargers were able to add Jared Cook who can take over his role. The Chargers’ offense has the upside to be one of the best during this season.

Defense

The skill level of the Chargers defense is similar to 2020 but with a new defensive-minded head coach, there is room for growth. Although it lacks some depth, the defensive line is solid. Joey Bosa will make an impact off the edge and if the rest of the line can support him, there is a solid chance their line is above average. The linebackers, in particular, have a chance to be special next year. Kenneth Murray was solid during his rookie season and improved throughout it.

If Murray can continue his improvement, along with Drue Tranquill back and healthy, the linebacker core could succeed. The secondary should be improved as well; After drafting Asante Samuel Jr. and re-signing Davis, there is a lot of potential for the group. Nasir Adderley will likely have a chip on his shoulder after struggling in 2020, hoping to turn things around. If Staley can unlock the potential this defense has, much like the offense, it could be outstanding.

Predicting the 53 Man Roster

QB (2) – Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel

Herbert is the face of the future for the Chargers. In 2021, he should look to continue improving and lead them to the playoffs. There is a chance the Chargers end up carrying three quarterbacks, but with Easton Stick performing poorly early in training camp, that seems unlikely.

RB (4) – Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III

Ekeler is set to be the lead back this season, but it is likely fans will see the rest of the running backs as well. Jackson can give Ekeler snaps off and Kelley can be a goal-line back if he makes the roster. Roundtree III was selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft and could see some playing time. Even more if he plays well or if Kelley does not make the final roster.

FB (1) – Gabe Nabers

Nabers is not a prominent player for the Chargers’ offense but is a somewhat impactful one. He can be a pass-catcher and since they do not have any other fullbacks, he has a good chance to make the final cut.

WR (7) – Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Joe Reed

Seven receivers may be a bit of overkill, but it would not be surprising if the Chargers took that many to start the year. Allen seems like a lock to be the No. 1 receiver on the team. He finished last season eight receiving yards shy of 1,000 and could look to get back over that mark in 2021. Williams, Guyton, Johnson, and even Palmer are interchangeable as the No. 2, 3, 4, and 5 receivers since Williams has not been performing well early in camp and Palmer has been. Lastly, Hill and Reed are competing with Austin Proehl, Jason Moore, John Hurst, and Michael Bandy for the final receiver spots.

TE (4) – Jared Cook, Donald Parham Jr., Tre’ McKitty, Stephen Anderson

Carrying four tight ends seems likely for the Chargers this year. After Henry left for New England during the offseason, the Chargers brought in Cook to take over the No. 1 tight end role. The No. 2 tight end, Parham Jr., is a terrific red zone target for Herbert, but he could also see increased usage outside of the red zone this season with Henry gone. McKitty was drafted in the third round of this year’s draft and will likely serve primarily as a blocker in 2021. There is a chance Anderson does not make the roster, but with his breakout games to close the 2020 campaign, carrying him along would not hurt Los Angeles.

OL (8) – Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Bryan Bulaga, Brenden Jaimes, Trey Pipkins, Scott Quessenberry

The Chargers’ offensive line is significantly better from last season. The additions of Slater and Linsley, along with Bulaga being healthy give the line a chance to be an above-average one. However, if injuries are a problem again, the depth on the line is not great. Jaimes is a solid backup guard, but the rest of the depth pieces have not shown the ability to protect Herbert.

DL (4) – Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Forrest Merrill

Joseph was able to produce well last year and solidify the inside of the Chargers defensive line. He should look to keep up that production this season. Next to him, Tillery or Jones both have the potential to improve and make the line stronger than in 2020. Lastly, Merrill is competing with Christian Covington, Breiden Fehoko, and others for the final spot in the middle of the defensive front.

EDGE (4) – Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, Chris Rumph II, Kyler Fackrell

Bosa and Nwosu are in the position to become one of the best edge-rushing duos this season. Bosa has always been elite and should look to keep improving. Nwosu will likely take over the starting spot on the other side with hopes of breaking out this year. As a rookie, Rumph II will provide some relief for the edge duo throughout games without being thrust into a large role early. Fackrell can provide versatility by being able to drop back in coverage or rush off the edge.

LB (6) – Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, Kyzir White, Emeke Egbule, Nick Niemann, Amen Ogbongbemiga

The pairing of Murray and Tranquill will finally have a chance to play a season together. Murray improved over the course of his rookie year and could become elite this year if he continues that trend. Next to the two is White. He will continue to make plays and if the linebacking core can stay healthy, it could be a special group. Egbule is solid and can do a fine job if any of the players ahead of him are injured. Niemann and Ogbongbemiga can provide depth but are not quality backups like Egbule.

CB (6) – Chris Harris Jr., Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr., Brandon Facyson, Tevaughn Campbell, Donte Vaughn

Harris Jr. and Davis are set to be starting corners this year after the departure of Hayward. Davis broke out last season and could look to continue his success in 2021. Samuel Jr., who was drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft, has been performing well in camp and could take one of the starting outside cornerback roles if Harris plays in the slot. Finally, Facyson, Campbell, and Vaughn round out the list of corners that could make the Chargers’ final roster.

SAF (4) – Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb

There is a lot of upside for the Chargers’ safety position. After James was an All-Pro in 2018, he has not been able to stay healthy. If he can return to his 2018 form, he would be one of the best safeties in the NFL. On the other side is Adderley, a terrific coverage safety who needs to improve as a tackler to be successful. If he does, and James can stay healthy, the Chargers could have an elite pair of safeties, but that is a lot of ‘ifs”. Gillman and Webb can provide depth if the starters can not stay healthy.

ST (3) – Michael Badgley, Ty Long, Cole Mazza

The kicking battle in camp is between Tristan Vizcaino, Alex Kessman, and Badgley; any three of them should make the final roster. The punter is Long (who is decent, but not elite) and Mazza is the long snapper.

One Player to Add

Although some Chargers fans want Xavien Howard, Chandler Jones makes more sense. Howard would cost the Chargers a lot and will likely only provide them with a few more elite years. However, Jones would cost them a fraction of that and he could improve an already solid defensive line the Chargers have. It would likely cost the Chargers a mid-round pick and a depth piece to get one of the best edge rushers in the NFL.

2021 Outlook & Odds

The Chargers are a tough team to project because a lot of their success will be determined by health. If the team can stay close to fully healthy, they could be a playoff team, but if injuries bug them again, they will probably not make it. James is a player to watch for in 2021 to see if he can return to his 2018 All-Pro form. The Chargers’ over/under win total is set at 9.5 for the 2021 season.

Season Prediction: 10-7 and Miss the Playoffs


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Kamran Nia is a journalist from Los Angeles, California.

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