One of the silver linings from the Los Angeles Chargers’ 2021 season centered on just how multiple players simply elevated their play over the campaign.
On offense, several players made the most out of their touches, including Justin Jackson. The versatile running back shrugged off injury issues last year, as he played in a career-high 14 regular season games and tallied 542 yards from scrimmage.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, numerous talents took a promising step forward in their respective careers. Among them, outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu finished with career highs across the board, including in sacks (5.0) and blitzes (57).
The Chargers head into the 2022 campaign with sky-high expectations to not only clinch a playoff spot in the AFC for the first time in the Justin Herbert era but also to orchestrate a deep run come postseason time. For this to come to fruition, the Chargers will need their high-priced talents to rise to the occasion and also have these two hidden gems add another dimension on offense.
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Chargers Hidden Gems On 2022 Roster
The Chargers did not enter the 2022 NFL Draft with the running back position being among their top needs. But when the opportunity presented itself to select Isaiah Spiller in the fourth round, they simply could not pass up on a chance to make a low-risk, high-reward move.
Spiller did not take his game to another level as was expected in his final season at Texas A&M, although he was once again the backbone of its offensive attack. He was not only a force on the ground with 1,011 rushing yards in 12 total games played, but he also helped to balance out the offense for quarterback Zach Calzada with 189 receiving yards.
The rookie running back featured for the Chargers in their rookie minicamp, OTAs, and mandatory minicamp programs. With what Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has so far viewed from the all-around back, he believes that there is much potential for him to blossom on the team.
“We like his size,” Lombardi said during Chargers’ OTAs. “He was productive. He’s still a young guy. I think that there’s going to be a lot of growth from him, physically, as he gets older and gets more time in the weight room. But, you can see the talent there. We’re not playing real football right now, as far as the running backs getting it and running through holes. Everything is slow motion, but in 7-on-7, he’s done a nice job.
“He’s another guy that you can tell is smart, understands football and is going to be doing the right things. We’re excited about him.”
The Chargers are slated to call upon Austin Ekeler to be their go-to option at the running back position later this year. Still, Spiller is set to have a golden chance to be his primary backup, and if he can emerge as a reliable pass-catcher for Herbert, he may see an increase in snaps played as the campaign progresses.
On the other hand, while it is always difficult for any wide receiver to impress when they are playing behind two Pro Bowl-level wideouts, Josh Palmer still managed to shine for the Chargers last season. In his rookie campaign, Palmer logged 33 receptions and 353 receiving yards in 17 contests played.
Palmer was off to a slow start in the year, as he recorded a mere seven receptions in the team’s opening seven contests of the season. He was able to turn the tide on his debut season as the campaign progressed, such as with his 66 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown performance against the New York Giants.
Heading into his second season in the NFL, there is much expectation for Palmer to up his production on offense. For Herbert, as he noted during Chargers’ mandatory minicamp, he sure is looking forward to calling on him in games this year.
“He’s been much more confident,” Herbert said. “He’s a guy that came in really early last year, and he picked up the offense pretty easily, but this year you know it’s a different Josh Palmer out there. … We’ve thrown a bunch after practice. I feel comfortable with him.
“I trust him … We’ve had a lot of reps together and I’m really looking forward to watching him this year.”
For Chargers wideout Mike Williams, he sees a “more calm” Palmer ahead of this season.
“He’s a lot more calm,” Williams said during Chargers’ OTAs. “He knows this now. He knows the offense. He knows every spot to be in. He’s playing a lot more smooth. He puts in the extra work with us.”
In the big picture, Herbert sure will be relying on both Spiller and Palmer in key snaps over the upcoming campaign.