As the start of the 2020 NFL season draws nearer (or so we hope), it’s time to look at which players are the faces of each NFL team – the players who have the most impact on their team, and some of the general leaders, and just generally who people think of when they think of an individual team. For this series, we’ll be looking at the three most prominent “faces” for each team. Here, we’ll look at those three figures for the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are one of the few teams we’ll see who won’t have a quarterback on this list. The Chargers are in a unique position of having a talented roster that is pretty well set at most of its positions – except the quarterback spot. Obviously, the play of Tyrod Taylor and/or Justin Herbert will be important, but they’re not the figureheads of this team right now. Let’s take a look at who is.
2020 Los Angeles Chargers: Faces of the Team
With Philip Rivers gone, the title of the most prominent player on offense falls to wide receiver Keenan Allen. A few years ago, his career looked to be in jeopardy due to a multitude of injuries; he missed half the season in 2015 and then tore his ACL in the first game of 2016. However, upon his return in 2017, he hasn’t missed a game since and has also taken his game to another level. He’s established himself as arguably a top ten wide receiver in the league. He is going to be a big help to whichever quarterback is throwing to him for the Chargers.
Over the last three seasons, he’s had 303 receptions, 18 touchdowns, and Pro Bowl appearances for each year. The 2019 season saw him break the franchise record for most receptions in a season with 104. This was breaking his own record from 2017 (102). He finished with 1,199 yards (good for sixth in the league) and six touchdowns. His most outstanding stat line came in Week 3 against the Houston Texans when he had 13 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
Since coming into the league, Allen has been one of the better route-runners around and has some unexpected elusiveness after the catch. While he’s not the type to make crazy catches like Odell Beckham or Julio Jones, he’s still obviously got good hands – one needs those to have 303 receptions in three seasons. With 2020 being the final year of his current contract, he’ll be looking to prove he can still be a top tier receiver without a top tier quarterback.
Who does one generally think of when they think about the Chargers defense? Probably the deadly pass-rushing duo that is Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, for starters. Bosa is still the better of the two, and particularly in the wake of Derwin James missing nearly the entire year, became the focal point of the Chargers defense again in 2019 after missing a lot of 2018.
Bosa bounced back nicely in 2019, not missing a single game and getting 67 combined tackles and 11.5 sacks plus one forced fumble. He had three games with multiple sacks. Bosa made his return to the Pro Bowl as a result of his efforts. Through four seasons, Bosa has gotten double-digit sack seasons every year save for 2018 which he missed most of. He has a total of 40 career sacks.
In a year where the quarterback position isn’t expected to be as strong as before, the defense will have to be major contributors for the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers to have a chance at winning that many games. A lot of that will come down to Bosa (and Ingram as well) on the defensive line. And given his history, it doesn’t seem like fans will have much to worry about from him.
Derwin James may have slightly slipped off the radar a little compared to his rookie year. This would be thanks to only playing five games in 2019 and not being quite as prolific in those games (perhaps still wasn’t quite 100%). He finished with 34 tackles and one pass deflection. However, based on his ability and his rookie year, James is still one of the focal points of this team in general.
James was the Chargers first-round pick in 2018 and became one of their biggest contributors on defense right away. In fact, he turned out to be something of a defensive everyman – someone who could play just about anywhere in the defensive backfield and still get things done. He plays strong safety, but he also got 3.5 sacks in 2018 and played a bit of linebacker particularly in the Wildcard playoff game. He finished that season with 105 combined tackles, 13 pass deflections, and three interceptions. James would most certainly have been Defensive Rookie of the Year on most seasons… the problem was just that Darius Leonard was also a rookie that year.
Provided he stays healthy, the play of Derwin James on defense will be a big part of how well the Chargers do this season. When you have a guy who can play almost anywhere on defense and still be good, that’s a problem for opposing offenses. That ability has quickly made him a fan favorite as well as one of their very best players.
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