It's Week 8 and in a prior year, this would be known as the midseason awards.
But hey, we're working with an extra week here in 2021 so we'll call these the midseason-ish awards.
The Los Angeles Chargers are back from their bye, and we rounded up a few of the team's beat writers along with fellow team reporter Chris Hayre and yours truly to dole out some awards and superlatives for the Bolts.
Fernando Ramirez: Mike Williams. It would be easy to go with Justin Herbert, but Williams has shown a different side of his receiving skills this season. His role in the offense has grown because the coaches along with Herbert trust him. He is off to a great start this year.
Gilbert Manzano: Justin Herbert. Justin Herbert quickly grasped Joe Lombardi's complex scheme and had the offense humming. The second-year quarterback orchestrated comeback victories and completed jaw-dropping throws. He entered the NFL MVP conversation because of his sensational five-touchdown performance against the Browns.
Chris Hayre: Justin Herbert. Mike Williams deserves consideration for his All-Pro-like start to 2021, but it's Justin Herbert. All you need to do is point to the three-game stretch against Kansas City, Las Vegas and Cleveland: 12 total touchdowns, zero turnovers and three massive AFC wins. If he can sustain that level of play over the majority of the next 11 weeks, he'll pick up more individual accolades. Most importantly, though, the team will continue to win.
Jeff Miller: Justin Herbert. I'd like to pick anyone other than Justin Herbert, but I'd like to be a billionaire, too. Have to keep it real. Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports and when you have a top-tier quarterback that player is even more important. Herbert has been solid-to-spectacular to date and appears on course for a long, productive career.
Hayley Elwood: Justin Herbert. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year is off to a fantastic start in 2021. Heck, even New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said you can't find "too many [quarterbacks] better than him." Herbert is the reason this offense has been rolling this season and it's exciting to see his potential and ability grow each week.
Joe Reedy: Corey Linsley. The easy answer is Justin Herbert, but if we want to consider the true unsung hero of the offense it would be center Corey Linsley. He has added stability to the offensive line with his leadership and the group has still managed to be solid despite injuries to two starters.
Ramirez: Derwin James. The heart and soul of the team is back. He feels like the "Multiple Man" from the Marvel comics, a guy who is in multiple places at once, because he has been all over the field making plays. The defense is happy to have him back.
Manzano: Derwin James. The Chargers have a winning record because of the many contributions from Derwin James. He's playing nearly every defensive position, calling the plays and filling stat sheets with tackles and takeaways. At times the defense has been shaky, but it's been good enough because No. 33 is on the field.
Hayre: Derwin James. His versatility alone makes him the defense's most valuable player. James is third in the NFL among safeties with 50 tackles (with one fewer game). He made a game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter against Las Vegas in Week 4. A week later vs. Cleveland, James totaled 14 tackles – in one half of football! Plain and simple, he's the heart and soul of this Chargers team.
Miller: Derwin James. Everyone knew Derwin James would make an enormous difference in his return and he hasn't disappointed. His versatility alone makes him the most valuable piece in Brandon Staley's scheme. It's hard to calculate how much his presence helps everyone around him.
Elwood: Derwin James. James told me during the offseason he was "starving" to get on the field and play. It's been clear how hungry he was with the impact he's made. He's the defensive signal caller, signifying an immense trust between him and head coach Brandon Staley, but for as athletically and football-talented as he is on the field, it's good to see his leadership presence on this team off of it.
Reedy: Derwin James. He's only the fourth DB since 2000 to have at least 50 tackles, a sack and an interception. His first half against Cleveland was amazing.
Ramirez: Derwin James' interception of Derek Carr to seal the victory against the Raiders.
Manzano: Herbert's 37-yard rope to Keenan Allen versus the Browns. Herbert's 37-yard dime to Keenan Allen had everything. Herbert created something out of nothing while escaping pressure and delivered the perfect throw off one foot to a diving Allen near the right sideline. Not only was it unreal athleticism by both players, but it was a crucial play with the Chargers in the midst of a fourth-quarter comeback versus the Browns.
Hayre: There are too many to choose from, but I go back to Week 5 against the Browns: Fourth-and-2 at their own 24 down 27-13. If the Chargers don't convert, the game is all but over. That nine-yard Austin Ekeler rush help set up an eventual touchdown, and a 26-point fourth quarter to beat Cleveland 47-42. It also further cemented the confidence the Bolts coaching staff has in Justin Herbert and the offense.
Miller: The image of Herbert's 37-yard completion to Keenan Allen against Cleveland has stayed with me like the memory of a favorite pizza. Not only did the connection convert a third-and-five late in the fourth quarter, but it also highlighted the abilities of both players. Herbert was on the move to his right and fired the ball to Allen over a defender and two quick steps from the sideline. It was perfection passing to perfection as Allen made a tremendous catch.
Elwood: It's the fourth downs for me. There are so many to choose from that had major ramifications in games, but I'm gonna go with the Week 5 4th-and-2 from the Bolts' own 24. That was risky. As Hayre said, if you don't convert, that game is essentially done. But they did. And after the game, you heard the immense amount of confidence radiate from Herbert and other offensive players that they knew they were going to covert to keep the drive alive. If you've got momentum on your side, why stop?
Reedy: Herbert's 13-yard completion to Cook on 4th-and-2 during the fourth quarter of the Monday Night game against Vegas. The Raiders were building momentum, but the Chargers seized it right back with the fourth-down conversion that would later result in a touchdown to put the game away.
Most Notable Victory
Ramirez: It has to be the Cleveland Browns game. They couldn't stop the run or Baker Mayfield, but the defense clamped down at crucial times. The offense turned it on and scored 26 points in the fourth quarter.
Manzano: Chargers at Kansas City in Week 3. The victory at Kansas City doesn't look as good as it did last month because the Chiefs have struggled, but the Chargers provided the blueprint for how to play Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. The Chargers played aggressively at Arrowhead Stadium and now teams aren't playing scared against the mighty Chiefs.
Hayre: Despite Kansas City's recent struggles, it's still the Week 3 win at Arrowhead. To force four turnovers, go 4-of-5 in the red zone, and deliver on fourth down in one of the most hostile venues in the NFL is as impressive as it gets. It also gave the Chargers their first division win of the season.
Miller: The victory at Kansas City has been tarnished a bit because of the Chiefs' sudden tailspin. So I'll go with the win over Cleveland because that was a game the Chargers easily could have lost. Austin Ekeler scoring three touchdowns in the final 7 1/2 minutes adequately sums up how dramatic that victory was.
Elwood: Week 3 vs Kansas City. What's the easiest way of making the playoffs? Winning your division. Getting a win against KC was huge. Sure, as everyone said, the Chiefs have faltered a bit, but being able to get a win against them, in a game where they scored 17 answered at one point to take the lead, looms large.
Reedy: Rallying in the fourth quarter to win the opener at Washington. That helped build momentum within the team and started to build things from there.
The Future is Here!
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