Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Season Awards

Chargers 2021 Season
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The 2021 Los Angeles Chargers season was yet another bumpy one that saw them finish with their first winning record since 2018 at 9-8; however, they barely missed the playoffs after a heartbreaking loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in overtime. While there were a handful of deficiencies in certain areas, one does not usually get to a winning record without plenty of good players. With that in mind, let’s hand out some awards for the Chargers 2021 season and see which players stood out the most.

Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Season Team Awards

Most Valuable Player: Justin Herbert

As was expected, the young star quarterback that is Justin Herbert took some steps forward this year. Even without including the extra 17th game, he exceeded most of his already excellent rookie numbers, as he passed for 5,014 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions with three rushing touchdowns added on. He also broke NFL records for most passing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback in their first two seasons. Herbert also had a lot of late-game heroics this season, capped by one of the more absurd final drives of regulation you will ever see in the final game of the season. The exciting thing for Chargers fans is that, since this was only his sophomore year, we may still have yet to see his ceiling.

Offensive Player of the Year: Austin Ekeler

As usual, despite Herbert technically being the best offensive player as well as the most valuable overall, we are giving recognition to another player on offense here, especially given how easy it is for a quarterback to be their team’s MVP.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi had a bit of an up-and-down season; however, far and away the best idea he brought over from his years with the New Orleans Saints was going all-in on halfback Austin Ekeler for an Alvin Kamara-esque role. And Ekeler did indeed deliver in that role. He had a career year, finishing with 911 rushing yards, 647 receiving, and 20 total touchdowns. This made him the first non-quarterback Charger since LaDainian Tomlinson to score 20 or more touchdowns in one season. In terms of scoring, no other player on the team besides Herbert himself was as important as Ekeler this year.

Defensive Player of the Year (and Comeback Player of the Year): Derwin James

This was a tough call between safety Derwin James and Joey Bosa, but while Bosa primarily (as usual) made plays as a pass-rusher, James made plays all over the field (also as usual). After playing only five games in the last two years combined, James made a triumphant return this year and reminded everyone why he was so important on defense. He finished with 118 combined tackles (75 solo), seven tackles for a loss, two interceptions, five pass deflections, two sacks, and three forced fumbles. As demonstrated, he recorded stats in almost every defensive category.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Rashawn Slater

The Chargers struck gold in the first round of the draft when they selected left tackle Rashawn Slater at 13th overall. Despite Herbert’s former Oregon teammate Penei Sewell being projected and selected higher, Slater ended up being the better performer by a long shot as he established himself immediately as one of the best offensive tackles in the entire league, ultimately getting Second-Team All-Pro honors. It’s unusual for any rookie to become a top player at his position this quickly, and offensive linemen are no exception. Look for Slater to be keeping Herbert’s blindside protected for years to come.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Asante Samuel Jr

The Chargers got a couple of great picks in the first two rounds. First Slater, and then Asante Samuel Jr, who played most of the season as a starting cornerback opposite Michael Davis. While he got bogged down the stretch by injuries that seemed to affect his play a little, he had a good rookie season overall. In 12 games he finished with 43 combined tackles (33 solo), two interceptions, and 11 pass deflections. He did have two concussions, so hopefully he can avoid those in the future; if so, he should have a promising future ahead as well.

Most Improved Player: Kyzir White

After being primarily a depth player who was certainly capable of strong play, linebacker Kyzir White unexpectedly had a big season for the Chargers and was undoubtedly the best linebacker on the team (as opposed to Kenneth Murray, who had a rather big sophomore slump). White started all 17 games and finished with 144 combined tackles (90 solo, seven for a loss), one sack, two interceptions, three pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. On a defensive front that was often quite shaky this year, White proved himself to be a strong asset. He is now a free agent, and hopefully the Chargers will lock him down and not lose an important piece of a defense that already needs a little fortifying in places.

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