It seems like every offseason for the last few years, the Los Angeles Chargers are favored to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won the division the previous six seasons. Before that streak, the Denver Broncos won five straight.
The Chargers haven’t won the AFC West since 2009 when LaDainian Tomlinson was still their starting running back. Behind them, the Raiders haven’t won it since Harry Potter went into the Chamber of Secrets, Peter Parker faced Doc Oc in Spider-Man II, or Anakin was slowly starting to shift to the dark side in Star Wars: Episode II in 2002.
If the AFC West were a poker table, then all four teams would have thrown their chips into the pot. Additions like Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, Raiders receiver Davante Adams, Chiefs receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, and Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack.
This year does seem different for the Chargers. This might be their best shot at winning the division.
They have superstar quarterback Justin Herbert on his rookie deal, so they had enough cap space to fix their dreadful defensive line with the additions of Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. Help bring in a tag team pass rushing partner for Joey Bosa in Mack and added secondary help in the best free agent corner in J.C. Jackson.
Their weakness last season was their defense, and they added to it… while also extending safety Derwin James to a long-term contract.
General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley went out to get players who fit Staley’s defensive scheme. They had a bottom-tier defense last season and were a couple of blown tackles away from making the playoffs.
The offense added first-round draft pick Zion Johnson as their starting right guard, which should improve the protection for Herbert. Receiver Josh Palmer showed flashes in his rookie season, so he is a player to watch as most defenses will be looking toward containing Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
If healthy, the Chargers have one of the top five rosters in the NFL. They have at least one-star player at every level of the team. It has flashes of the 2006 Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl winning team.
Leadership is a significant aspect of successful teams. They need leaders, which this team has, especially at the top of the team in James. He is the vocal leader and the team’s heart and soul. They will go as he goes, and James is hungry to win.
Health, stars being stars, and leadership will define the Chargers’ 2022 season. Is it the same ol’ Chargers, or are they finally ready to break that stigma that has stayed with them for years? It’s time to find out.