The Chargers enter the 2021 season fresh off Justin Herbert’s rookie campaign in which he shattered several rookie records and looked like the best of the bunch in a crowded rookie class. Thrust into the starting role early in the season, Herbert threw the most touchdown passes of any rookie in the league’s history despite being the second most pressured quarterback in the NFL, throwing for 4,336 yards and 31 TDs in 15 starts.

Out with Anthony Lynn and in with Brandon Staley, who was the defensive coordinator for the LA Rams in 2020. Staley brought in long time Saints OC Joe Brady for the same role in LA, while the front office added LT Rashawn Slater in the first round of the 2021 draft and signed All Pro center Corey Linsley away from the Packers to anchor an improved offensive line tasked with protecting the franchise quarterback.

Jalen Ramsey called Brandon Staley “the best defensive coordinator that I’ve had for sure in the NFL,” and the Chargers roster seems to be buying into his scheme throughout the preseason. Staley is known for his multiplicity on defense, using players in a number of hybrid positions. According to Ramsey, “he knows how to use his players and works well to put his players in position to make plays or have an impact on the game. He knows how to get the best out of people.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers will get Derwin James back after missing the entire 2020 season. Nasir Adderley will be starting opposite James at the safety position and is slated to have a breakout season in his third year and first in Staley’s scheme.

“I really like how he is every day,” Staley said. “He’s a ball guy. When things don’t go well, he can respond quickly which is just so much of being a competitor and being able to overcome things quickly and keep it moving.”

Rookie Asante Samuel Jr. impressed in camp and won the starting corner job opposite 10-year veteran and 4-time Pro Bowler Chris Harris. Joey Bosa enters the season healthy after dealing with triceps, ankle and knee injuries throughout the season. The Chargers lack starpower opposite Bosa with the departure of Melvin Ingram to Pittsburgh, so their ability to generate a significant pass rush in Staley’s new scheme will be key in their success on the year.

Over the last two seasons under Anthony Lynn, the Chargers had 16 halftime leads and won only 56% of their games. They had fourth quarter leads in 14 spots and finished only 9-5 in those situations. If coaching improves without Lynn and under veteran coordinator Joe Brady head coach Brandon Staley on defense and the offensive line can protect Herbert significantly better than they did in 2020, the Chargers have the makings for a breakout season in the AFC West.