Four Chargers Breakout Candidates For The 2022 Season
There are always going to be the favorites to win the Superbowl. Sometimes an underdog team can come out of nowhere to make a magical postseason run. Last year it was the Bengals who were the Cinderella team, and the Rams who were one of the betting favorites in the preseason.
These things don’t usually happen by chance, there are a few factors to why these teams breakout. Many times it comes down to a few players overachieving compared to what was originally anticipated from them. The Bengals were a 4-11-1 team in 2020 and Joe Burrow was coming off a torn ACL. The Bengals had three main players breakout that were not fully anticipated. Without Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Trey Hendrickson each ascending into the upper echelons of their respective position, the Bengals do not make it to the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl.
What I am getting at here is that every team is going to have their main contributors that you can rely on, but it is going to be the guys that drastically improve that come out of nowhere to take a team to that next level. The Chargers are very close to being considered one of the favorites, their roster is fantastic, it really comes down to who is going to step up. I am going to outline four Chargers breakout candidates for the upcoming season. I believe each player could feasibly take their respective games to the next level. I will highlight two on offense and two on defense.
Offensive Player 1 – Trey Pipkins
All eyes heading into training camp are on who is going to be holding down the fort at the right tackle spot for the Chargers. This was the position that I believe is the reason they lost the last game of the season and ultimately missed the playoffs. The battle for right tackle this season seems to be coming down to Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins. Known offensive line guru, Duke Manyweather (@BigDuke50 on Twitter) has raved about Pipkins a few times already this offseason. Manyweather is not wrong very often at all and can be very trusted. Just last week he said that Pipkins has improved nicely during the time he has worked with him and is excited to see him put everything together. Getting the stamp of approval from Manyweather is a big deal.
Because of this, I anticipate Pipkins to eventually win the starting job and be a main contributor to the team this season. They don’t need him to be a top 10 right tackle by any means, but anything close to average is a big win for this team. If Pipkins can really put it together and be a solid, reliable option at right tackle, there are no limits to what this Chargers offense can do.
Offensive Player 2 – Josh Palmer
I really enjoy watching Josh Palmer play football. He plays the receiver position very gracefully for someone his size. Palmer was continuously mentioned last year as someone that was staying late after every single practice to get extra reps in with Justin Herbert. That work will always eventually pay off. In the first 12 games of the season; Palmer was targeted 21 times, and had 15 receptions for 168 yards, and one touchdown. In the last five games of the season; Palmer was targeted 28 times, and had 18 receptions for 185 yards, and three touchdowns. That is a drastic improvement in such a quick time.
Palmer is a solid blend between what Mike Williams and Keenan Allen each bring to the table. He is a bigger body receiver but displays quite a lot of fluidity in his route running for someone his size. It will be difficult for him to vault himself into the 1,000-yard receiver category due to the rest of the offense being so stacked, but if he can up his total yardage to 600-700 yards or so, it would open another dimension to the offense. To me, that would qualify as a breakout season for the former Volunteer.
Defensive Player 1 – Nasir Adderley
I believed last season was going to be the season that Nasir Adderley would officially break out. He definitely improved over what he put out in the previous season, but I wouldn’t consider it a full breakout. He increased his tackle production from 69 to 99 from 2020 to 2021, playing 15 of 17 games. While there was improvement, there was a lot more to be desired that I believe will all click this season for him.
Back at The University of Delaware, Adderley was known as a ballhawk. A guy that can track the ball and make plays as the deep safety all over the field. He had 10 interceptions in college and was very good at making plays on the ball. The difference in the NFL at this point has been staggering, coming down with only one interception in the two full seasons that he has played. There are many moments that we can recall where it seemed as if an interception was certain, but he either overplayed it or it simply just slipped through his hands. I believe some positive regression is bound to happen and he will come down with three or four this season. Those few extra plays that he can make can flip a game and the Chargers may not need a win-and-in situation in week 18 if that is the difference.
Defensive Player 2 – Asante Samuel Jr.
This one is fairly obvious and I assume many will agree with the selection. Asante Samuel Jr. started the season out on fire. Coming down with an interception against the Cowboys and Chiefs. He was getting more and more confident and coming into his own. Unfortunately, he ran into health issues as he had two concussions within a very short time period, which makes things as difficult as they can be. He predictably wasn’t the same after that and seemed to struggle towards the end of the season.
The Chargers made splashy moves this offseason, including signing free agent cornerback J.C. Jackson to a long-term deal. Jackson will be taking over the role of the team’s top cornerback, and according to Brandon Staley, Jackson will shadow the opposing team’s top receiver. Jackson’s presence will give Samuel more opportunities to move around and to operate out of the slot, where I believe he is most effective. A breakout season from Samuel will have the Chargers with one of the truly elite secondaries in the NFL.
Many media members around the league expect the Chargers to be in the Super Bowl bubble this upcoming season due to the overall star talent on the team. They are going to need some supporting players to overperform their current expectations in order to reach their ultimate potential. I see the players I have outlined as having a high likelihood of being able to take their game to new heights and elevate this team.