Throughout the month of July, the Last Word on Pro Football department will be taking a look at the three most recognizable faces of each NFL team. For this series, we’ll be looking only at active players. For this post, we’ll be looking at the faces of the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers.
Most Recognizable Faces of the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers
In general, most quarterbacks are going to be one of the main faces of their NFL team; especially if they’re remotely above average. Philip Rivers is no exception, being easily a top ten quarterback in this league. He may be in the tail end of his career (he is currently 37), but he’s not slowing down yet; if anything, the opposite is occurring. His 2018 season was one of the best of his career.
2018 saw him throw for 4,308 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 105.5, which is tied for the best of his career since he’s been a starter (done previously in 2008 and 2013). It helps that he’s currently playing with one of the better Chargers squads he’s played with in his entire career, but those are still impressive numbers.
One particularly notable performance in 2018 for Rivers was against the Arizona Cardinals in a 45-10 blowout, when he went 28-for-29 in passing attempts. This saw him tie Ryan Tannehill for the most consecutive completions in NFL history with 25, but unlike Tannehill, he did it in the space of one game. He also helped lead some impressive comeback wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. We should expect more of the same from him in 2019.
Just a few years ago, the future of wide receiver Keenan Allen’s career (at least with the Chargers, anyway) looked to possibly be in jeopardy. Through the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he had only appeared in nine games and torn his ACL in the opening game of the 2016 season. Despite his impressive talent, it looked quite possible that injuries might derail his career.
Two more seasons later and now Allen is a top ten receiver in the league. Over the last two seasons, Allen has put up 199 catches, 2,589 yards, and twelve touchdowns. Back in the 2017 season, he became the first player in NFL history to put up three straight games with 10+ catches, 100+ receiving yards and at least one touchdown. His best game of the 2018 season would have to be the one against the Steelers where he posted 14 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. This performance was a big part of how the Chargers pulled off a comeback win against the Steelers.
Allen has an impressive skill set; he’s one of the better route runners in the league. He’s not overwhelmingly fast, but he can be surprisingly elusive once he has the ball in his hands. And of course, he’s got good hands too – one needs those to gain nearly 200 catches in two seasons. He’s not generally the type to make circus catches often like Odell Beckham Jr or Julio Jones (though he is capable), but his abilities still make him a very tough receiver to defend.
Derwin James has only been in the league one year, and yet he may already be the most recognizable player on the defense – even more so than Joey Bosa (although him only playing seven games in 2018 may not have helped Bosa’s case). He finished 2018 with 105 tackles, three and a half sacks, and three interceptions. His season might normally have gotten him a Defensive Rookie of the Year award – except he was a rookie the same year as Darius Leonard.
James is officially a strong safety, but he has the unique ability to be a multi-purpose defensive player. Besides playing pass coverage, he’s been known to blitz the quarterback as well as the defensive line (hence the three and a half sacks). Much like his fellow safety Adrian Phillips, he is capable of essentially playing linebacker (as seen in the Wildcard win over the Baltimore Ravens). Basically, he can play almost wherever he wants on the defensive side of the ball and still play well. That’s a talent that few defensive players can claim.
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