Los Angeles Chargers: 5 Breakout Candidates Primed for a Big 2024

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The Los Angeles Chargers offseason is yet again littered with reasons for optimism, but when the rubber hits the road, success this season will hinge on a handful of players leaping forward in their talent level. We already know what Khalil Mack, Derwin James, and Justin Herbert are going to bring, but who will be the players that turn this team into a playoff-caliber unit?

For the sake of this article, ‘breakout candidates’ are limited to players still on their rookie contracts, but not players selected this season.

Los Angeles Chargers Breakout Candidates

Joshua Palmer, WR

Truth be told, the Chargers just need one of the 11 guys they have added over the last two seasons to become a reliable pass catcher. But Joshua Palmer has shown the most potential of the group to take a step into a starting role in 2024.

Last season, he posted the most Yard/ route run of his career, 1.71. That was just about a tenth of a yard behind Cooper Kupp. In his best games, Weeks 4, 7, and 15, he posted elite y/rr statistics

Otito Ogbonnia, DT

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers
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The Chargers need this one and sometimes necessity is the best motivator. The interior of the offensive line lacks star power and rotational depth behind Morgan Fox and Poona Ford.

Otito Ogbonnia took a big leap forward from his first to second season and he will have to do the same from two to three. He played great football in several games once his playing time was increased in Week 9.

He recorded four pressures and three tackles against the New York Jets. That pressure mark equaled his rookie season total. He also played well against Detroit, New England and Buffalo.

Zion Johnson, Guard

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
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There is another former first-rounder that people would like to see on this list, but Jim Harbaugh‘s teams go as his offensive lines go. Zion Johnson hasn’t been as disappointing as that other guy, but he does need to get better in his third season.

Johnson has shown the flashes of what you want to see from a guard drafted in the teens, but the consistency hasn’t been there. In some games he will pitch a shutout against the league’s best pass rushers, in others he will lead the team in pressures allowed.

Run blocking is where he will need to take the biggest leaps forward. His gaps have been some of the least productive to run through for Chargers rushers over the last two seasons.

Tuli Tuipulotu, Edge

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It’s hard to argue that Tuli Tuipulotu needs to have a breakout year, as I think he already did that as a rookie. He was at the top of all viable metrics among rookie edge rushers last season. But a leap forward from him would go a long way in fixing the Chargers defense.

First, edge rusher has become, likely the second most important (and expensive) position in football. Having an elite pass rusher on a rookie contract is priceless, especially for a former late second-rounder.

Second, while Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack are great, they are both expensive and not getting any younger. A leap forward from Tuipulotu will cement that position for the Chargers for the foreseeable future.

Great, and cheap, at this position is nearly impossible to come by. Tuipulotu proved last season to be good, but can he take the leap to great?

Daiyan Henley, LB

NCAA Football: Washington State at Stanford
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Daiyan Henley‘s place on this list is due to a combination of Tuipulotu and Ogbonnia’s reasonings. The Chargers need it and he has flashed excellent play in limited snaps.

First, the need; Denzel Perryman isn’t a long-term option and he is the only player on the roster that’s proven to be an NFL linebacker. The Chargers also added Troy Dye and drafted Junior Colson, but they need answers today and Henley is the closest to having all the right answers.

Henley has only played 54 defensive snaps over six games last season, on a terrible defense. But he held his own. He racked up 10 tackles (he didn’t miss one), four STOPS, and allowed just 20 yards receiving on seven targets. The longest play he gave up while in coverage was just eight yards.

It will be interesting to watch he and Colson duke it out for playing time, but as of now, my money is on Henley.