Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Season Recapby Michael Schiro January 19, 2022 0 comments
The Los Angeles Chargers have had a roller-coaster season this year, finishing with a record of 9-8 and missing the playoffs. With the terrible loss at the end of the regular season to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chargers cemented the end to their wildly erratic season. There were points in the regular season where they looked like the best team in the AFC and other times where they seemed not even worthy of a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the up and downs of the regular season come back to haunt them down the final stretch of the regular season. With the Chargers looking to bounce back in 2022, the team has a few things they need to address during the offseason.
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What Went Right
Justin Herbert was one of the better quarterbacks in the league this season. With improved numbers from his rookie season, he has continued to strengthen and grow in the system, meeting all expectations of a second-year player. With 5,014 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a 65.9 percent completion rate, he took a step forward this season. By comparison, Herbert had 4,336 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 66.6 percent completion rate in his rookie year. Having a sophomore quarterback show the necessary improvement to become a top-five quarterback in the league, it is evident the Chargers have their guy under center for the next decade.
What Went Wrong
The defense is concerning. Lacking the ability to stop the run while having trouble defending the red zone, the Chargers must address the below-average defense in the offseason. Giving up over 100 yards on the ground 12 times and over 150 yards seven times consistently put their pass defense in bad situations. Herbert put up points for the offense, but the defense could not get the ball back to him quickly enough to keep them in games. With Brandon Staley being a defensive-minded coach, it is up to him to turn the defense around for next season. They may look to bring in a better person in the box or change the scheme around to increase effectiveness.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Austin Ekeler
Ekeler had a tremendous year in the backfield for the Chargers, putting up rushing and receiving yards as the duel threat. Ekeler ran for 911 yards and accounted for 12 touchdowns. With these solid rushing numbers, he also adds to it with 647 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Being a passing threat and a threat in the backfield has helped Herbert a lot in his sophomore season, leading to a sharp increase in his numbers. Something that won’t be shown in the stat world is how well he is in pass protection. His effectiveness in all aspects has allowed Herbert to feel more comfortable in his pocket. Overall, being a do-it-back for the chargers is something that the offense relies on to run smoothly.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Rashawn Slater
Slater has been all that the Chargers hoped for when they took him with the 13th pick in the draft. Slater topped Penei Sewell, taken seventh in the same draft. In addition, Slater plays clean, only allowing four sacks and six penalties the whole year on 1,116 snaps. However, the Charger’s offensive line needs work, especially on the right side. Thanks to Slater, the left tackle spot is set for the next decade.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Asante Samuel Jr.
Samuel, taken in the second round of the draft, was a player the Chargers thought would step right in and play a role in their secondary. He played in 12 games, starting all of them before getting a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the season. However, Samuel was one of the better secondary players for the team and showed in his game film. While the numbers of interceptions and tackles were not the best, he more than made up for it by playing excellent coverage and being reliable as a boundary corner.
Biggest Surprise – Mike Williams
Williams became what the team thought he would be when they drafted him in 2017, the significant deep threat and jump-ball receiver. He outplayed Keenan Allen with 76 receptions for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns. William had more yards and touchdowns on 30 fewer catches than the No. 1 receiver on the team. After having career highs across most categories, Williams is in line for a massive contract extension this offseason.
Biggest Disappointment – Jared Cook
Cook continues his run of disappointing teams in his play, putting up merely 564 yards on 48 catches in 16 games. The Chargers brought Cook the band-aid replacement to Hunter Henry; however, Cook could not find the production even an average tight end in the league. One of the most significant indicators that Cook has fallen off is that he caught only 57.8 percent of the passes thrown his way. By comparison, Evan Engram caught 63 percent with a less effective quarterback. Cook is no longer the threat he used to be, and the Chargers need to rely more on Donald Parham next season.
One Burning Question
Where does the Defense go from Here?
With the defense consisting of terrible run support while having big names players, it is something that Staley must improve on going into next season. While Herbert is still on a rookie deal and surrounded by talent all around the field, it is evident that the Chargers need to fix the defense to get close to going to a Super Bowl. Having Herbert on a rookie deal allows the front office to spend more for defensive players and build up a complete team, which must happen this offseason through either the draft or free agency. If the Chargers can fix the issues on defense, the Chargers are realistic Super Bowl contenders for next season.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images