The Chargers 2023 season came to an end quietly without a shot at the playoffs. The final games came and went as the team limped into the offseason behind a battered team led by a backup quarterback and an interim head coach.
Before things hit the fan, a number of players still managed to leave their mark on the season and the team. Guys like Keenan Allen and Khalil Mack enjoyed career years during a lost season, showing the type of resiliency needed from veteran leadership. Others...faltered, playing roles — or lack thereof — that directly led to the downfall of the season.
So here we go, the best and worst Chargers players from the 2023 season via Pro Football Focus.
Best (min. 10 games played)
WR Keenan Allen - 86.3
QB Justin Herbert - 85.4
OT Rashawn Slater - 76.6
WR Joshua Palmer - 67.6
TE Gerald Everett - 65.6
Most of the usual names are here that you’d expect to see at the end of the season. You have the team’s top wideout, left tackle, and quarterback all within the top three players. Keenan Allen could have had his best year, across the board, of his career if it wasn’t for a heel injury that took four games from him to end the season.
With Mike Williams missing 14 games due to a torn ACL, his immediate replacment in Joshua Palmer making it to the top five is also another good sign. Palmer has always been solid when given a larger role in the offense and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take over as the team’s WR2 in 2024, barring a Quentin Johnston breakout.
Everett was solid once again but his production took a hit due to the entire offense’s lack of consistency following Corey Linsley’s loss. He’s not a TE1 in the NFL but he’s worth bringing back as veteran depth next year.
TE Stone Smartt - 44.1
RB Joshua Kelley - 52.0
OG Jamaree Salyer - 54.2
C Will Clapp - 56.7
OG Zion Johnson - 57.6
There’s a chance three of the five players listed here are not in powder blue next season. Smartt has flashed but he’s a former undrafted free agent brought in by the old regime. Kelley has never been who the team wanted him to be and it’s likely time they move in a different direction in regards to the running back room. Clapp was fine as a backup center but he’s almost 30 and Brenden Jaimes played just as well in his place to end the year.
As for the pair of starting guards, this isn’t what the team hoped for during their sophomore campaigns. The offensive line was supposed to take a sep forward due to positive progression from both of these two. Unfortunately, both regressed and it’s left the position group’s outlook a bit murkier than expected.
EDGE Khalil Mack - 91.8
S Alohi Gilman - 86.1
CB Asante Samuel Jr. - 73.9
LB Eric Kendricks - 72.3
EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu - 71.0
Mack balled out in a resurgent season that saw him tie the single-season franchise record in sacks with 17. That was also good enough for fourth in the entire NFL. His 21 tackles for loss were also the second-most he’s ever posted in a season. Both him and Tuli Tuipulotu were dominant in the run game, and if the Chargers are smart, they find a way to bring back Mack and pair him with Tuli for another season.
Gilman recorded a career-high two interceptions this year and was one of the team’s most-consistent defenders in his first full year as a starter. If the Chargers can keep him for cheap, I’d be all for it.
Kendricks isn’t the player he used to be but he was adequate enough to keep the middle linebacker group afloat. However, I’d be surprised if both him and Kenneth Murray were back together next season. The position needs new blood and the Chargers don’t have anyone worth forking notable money out for to retain.
Samuel was solid, but still not as consistent as the Chargers need in a CB1. He’s fine as a number two, but don’t be surprised to see the Chargers commit to a cornerback within the first few rounds this year.
DT Scott Matlock - 36.8
DT Austin Johnson - 45.7
LB Kenneth Murray - 52.9
CB Ja’Sir Taylor - 56.2
CB Michael Davis - 56.5
Matlock was a sixth-round rookie that played a bit more than he likely would have while Otito Ogbonnia came back from injury. His worst grade came as a run defender where he likely needs to build strength to perform better at the point of attack. His pass rush grade was better, but not by much. He’ll need time to develop for sure.
In his second year with the team, Johnson wasn’t up to par but some of that can be blamed on his severe knee injury he sustained a year ago. Still, it’s not likely he returns due to a combination of age and performance.
We’ve been at this with Kenneth Murray for four years now and it’s no surprise the team did not pick up his fifth-year option. He’s underwhelmed as a starter with a few flashy performances sprinkled over his career thus far. The Chargers need to find themselves a field general.
Taylor will continue to grow in year three and hopefully the next staff can unlock another level of his play. He’s been best as a special teams player but he’s still young enough to warrant more time towards developing. Davis has been too up-and-down since signing his last contract and it’s probably time the Chargers decide to move on.