The end of the football season came early for the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite winning their last four games, the Chargers fell short in one of the toughest divisions in football. Despite injuries and coaching inadequacies, the Chargers still found a way to go a solid 7-9. An argument can be made that a better draft pick would be better compensation for not making the playoffs, but I’d argue that this was a team with expectations this year. This group wanted to win, and their efforts the last month of the season leaves them with something to build on going into next season.
With a lot to look forward to next year, let’s wrap up this year with Awards! When deciding, I only had one rule, which was that no guy could win multiple categories, keep it fresh so you’re not reading Herbert’s season recap over and over again. I’ll probably skip the coaching and front office awards, with Lynn being fired it didn’t seem to make sense. We’re going to give awards out to the following categories: Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, OPOY, DPOY, Most Improved Player, Comeback Player, and of course MVP. Let’s begin!
Comeback Player of the Year — Hunter Henry
If you’ve been a fan of the Chargers for a while, you might know how tough this story has actually been. Henry won the Mackie Award as the nation’s top tight end in college, before being selected with a second-round pick in 2016 by the Chargers.
His rookie season started out in a complementary role with the presence of Antonio Gates, yet he forced his way into an important role. Catching eight touchdowns his rookie year, second all-time to only Rob Gronkowski. What happens next is the tough part though, as Henry would go down with major injuries at different points of the next three seasons. Even still, he found a way to produce 500 yards and 4 touchdowns, three times in that span. At which point the Chargers franchise tagged him, showing how important he really is to this offense. I think everyone can agree that seeing this promising young player finally get a healthy season under his belt was a sigh of relief.
Most Improved Player of the Year — Rayshawn Jenkins
Rayshawn Jenkins spent the first couple of seasons of his NFL career not making the impact I’m sure he desired. With a solid season as a backup last year, he was given the opportunity to really shine in 2020 with Derwin James getting hurt.
Jenkins, who is in the last year of his contract and set to be a free agent next year, did not disappoint. He led the Chargers in defensive snaps, recorded 80 tackles (second on the team), and played 15 games. For a guy who looked like a career backup, and who wouldn’t be returning next year, let’s just say he’s definitely going to have a job next season.
Defensive Player of the Year — Joey Bosa
It’s hard to imagine a player who only played twelve games being the best defender on your team. But then, I guess it’s really not when you’re talking about an NFL superstar. Four extra games didn’t matter at all, as Bosa was still far and away the most important defender for the Chargers. Leading the team in sacks and tackles for losses, and earning himself a Pro Bowl nod — it’s not a shocker that Joey Bosa is the Chargers DPOY.
Offensive Player of the Year — Keenan Allen
The Chargers only have one other Pro Bowler this year besides Bosa, and for good reason. Allen caught another staple 100 passes, for 1,000 yards this season. Easily the most impactful skill player on this team this year, especially with Austin Ekeler being in and out of the lineup. With a full season under his belt, Allen proved to a lot of people who may have forgotten about him, that he might be the best route runner and receiver in the AFC.
Defensive Rookie of the Year — Kenneth Murray
Murray had an up and down season, to say the least, with some pretty wild swings all year. There were weeks that Murray could win or lose you a football game with his performance. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that Gus Bradley’s scheme didn’t really take advantage of Murray’s pass-rushing ability and forced him into coverage a lot more than he might have been ready for.
Despite that, Murray was still the only rookie not named Herbert that made much of an impact. He did find his stride a little bit towards the end of the year, with multiple double-digit tackle games and improved coverage ability. Murray led the team in tackles in 2020, a point of emphasis as he looks to fully develop into the first-round talent many saw him as.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Joshua Kelley
Taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Kelley was seen as someone who could provide sneaky value to their run game and maybe help stabilize it a bit after the departure of Melvin Gordon. He did that in some ways, as the Chargers clearly relied on him as this team struggled to run the ball most of the year. He started off his first two games with a bang, as he rushed for over 60 in both. But then fumbles in consecutive games and the emergence of Justin Jackson/Kalen Ballage made it hard for him to find playing time. Despite the negatives, Kelley still produced 350 yards for the Chargers on the ground. Being early in his playing career, plus a coaching change might just be what Kelley needs to find the stability he and the Chargers need running the ball.
Most Valuable Player — Justin Herbert
A no-brainer. A sure-fire, 100% guaranteed lock. In a single word that describes it — hope. What Justin Herbert did this year was give the Chargers organization and fans hope. It has been a long time since the Chargers have been a perennial powerhouse in the NFL. Inconsistent years of intermittent winning, coaching changes, quarterback and kicker controversies; it hasn’t always been easy to be a Chargers fan. Herbert seems to have made fans forget about all of that negativity in one short season. That’s how good he is.
The most important position in football and the Chargers found the franchise quarterback that everyone so desperately desires. Nobody on this roster was even close to being as impactful on the field for the Chargers, nor as impactful for the spirit of this football team. When he’s behind center, everyone feels like a game is never lost. In Herbert we trust.