The Los Angeles Chargers finished the 2022 season with a record of 10-7 and had their first playoff berth since 2018. However, they went one-and-done in the Wildcard Round after a historic collapse against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Due to a lot of in-season chaos and injuries (including to the star quarterback Justin Herbert himself), this season oddly felt more shaky than their 9-8 one from last year, when they barely missed the playoffs. Though the season ended on another disappointing note, being a playoff team inevitably means there was a fair share of good players. With that in mind, let’s hand out some awards for the Chargers 2022 season and see which players stood out the most.
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Los Angeles Chargers 2022 Season Team Awards
Most Valuable Player: Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert had his statistically most pedestrian year so far, with 25 touchdowns and 6.8 yards per pass (though he still passed for 4,739 yards). Still, this team would never be able to do as well without him. Though some of his lower stats can be attributed to playing injured for over a month, it can also be attributed to rather vanilla play-calling on offense. Ultimately, it was often the “it” factor from him that bailed them out of a few games they were very close to blowing. While the franchise has been left rocked by the cataclysmic Wildcard loss, we should at least expect to see more of Herbert’s ceiling in 2023 with a change at offensive coordinator.
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 will give recognition to another player on offense here, especially given how typical it is for a quarterback to be a team’s MVP.
Much like in 2021, the halfback Ekeler proved to be the second most important player on offense for the Chargers. He finished with 915 rushing yards and a career-high 107 receptions for 722 yards, with a total of 18 touchdowns. Admittedly, a lot of those catches were on designed quick screens that went nowhere; still, it’s a testament to how sure his hands are. He had over 1,500 scrimmage yards for the second straight year and remains one of the most versatile halfbacks in the league. While there was certainly tough competition in the AFC this year, it’s still a bit of a travesty that he has yet to get a Pro Bowl nod.
Defensive Player of the Year: Derwin James
There was a bit more competition for this spot this year, and given that they won a couple of critical games without him, it can’t really be said that he’s the defensive MVP right now. Still, he remains the most talented player on the defense, made All-Pro Second-Team, and continued to make plays everywhere on the field. He was in on 115 tackles (64 solo) and had two interceptions, four sacks, six passes defended, and two forced fumbles. James remains one of the best safeties in the league and has made the Pro Bowl every year that he’s been healthy. It’s notable that the top three awards here have the same players as last year; the most important core players have remained the same.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Zion Johnson
This came down to the two offensive lineman rookies from the Draft. Right guard Zion Johnson’s rookie year wasn’t on the level of Rashawn Slater, but very few are. He did quite well for a rookie who was expected to start right away, and notably, the running game seemed to do better on the right side of the line than the left. We should expect to see him progress further as a primary piece of the rebuilt offensive line.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Sir Taylor
There was not a lot of competition for this award as scarcely any of the Chargers defensive rookies got much time on the field this year. Taylor’s first big opportunity of any sort didn’t even come until Week 14 when slot corner Bryce Callahan was out. Taylor did quite well in that first opportunity, holding his own in coverage against the likes of Jaylen Waddle. He was rewarded by getting more snaps in the rotation in situations where the team felt he would be useful. He hasn’t recorded an interception yet, but he already looks to have a promising future ahead of him in the defensive secondary. Not bad for a sixth-rounder who didn’t really get any meaningful playing time until December.
Most Improved Player: Drue Tranquill
In the final year of his rookie contract, Tranquill took the step back from promising linebacker to an undisputed starter who arguably got snubbed by not being a Pro Bowl alternate. His 2022 season saw him finish with 146 total tackles – nearly double his previous career-high – and 95 solo tackles (ten for a loss), along with five sacks, one interception (plus an additional one in the playoffs), four passes defended, and one forced fumble. He had career highs in nearly every category. The Chargers need to make sure they lock him down, because he has quite suddenly ascended to being one of the better players on the defense.
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