Exploring the best offensive line combination ahead of week 1
Heading into the regular season one of the main concerns for the Chargers is the offensive line. Will Russell Okung be back? Who will win the right tackle position? What will be the final decision on the alignment of the guard positions? The answer to those questions will ultimately depend on how the first question is answered. If Okung , a pro bowl left tackle, can’t return from his blood clot situation it certainly changes what this line looks like along with its effectiveness.
Now assuming Russell Okung Does return the best possible starting core for the offensive line looks as such:
LT LG C RG RT
Okung Lamp Pouncey Feeney Scott
Now keeping in mind that this is just my opinion, others may disagree. However after constantly mulling over player grades in both pass and run blocking along with using the simple eye test I have decided this is the core that I would be most comfortable with and one that I think would be most effective. Those of you who follow me will know that I think pretty highly of the job Trent Scott has been doing filling in at left tackle in the absence of Okung. He is consistently playing well in the pass protection department in both practices and preseason games. The exception would be most recently against the Seahawks. Of course the drawback to Scott is that he seems to be more of a pass blocking specialist and seems to be below average in the run blocking department. With that being said it is better to have a pass blocking specialist rather than someone who struggles in all departments. ( yes I’m talking about Sam Tevi). The other candidate at the tackle position would be 3rd round pick Trey Pipkins. Pipkins was drafted as a project and still seems to remain one. He seems a bit lost of some of his read’s and assignments so he will need at least a full season under his belt before he can be considered a real starting option, even then it’s up in the air as he seems to be constantly letting defensive ends bend the edge on him too much even when there isn’t even a tricky assignment and getting caught coming straight up in the air out of his stance.
When it comes to Forrest Lamp it’s a case of better late than never. The wait is of no fault to Lamp himself, I just mean that in regards to the anticipation that came with being a second round draft pick. With Okung being out and Pouncey getting limited rep’s, Lamp has been the best offensive lineman on the team. He is constantly grading out in the 80’s with his pass blocking and while his run blocking grades are up and down, he has shown the ability to blow running holes wide open. I would however like to see him get a few more practice reps on pulling plays. Considering this is only his first real large amount of playing time since he has been in the NFL, I have no doubt he is the type of player who will continue to get better as the season progresses. One scenario I would have liked to see would have been trying Lamp out at the right tackle position while Scott Quessenberry gets a shot at one of the guard positions. This is now neither here nor there as it didn’t happen. Why the team is so dead set on Lamp as a guard is a mystery as he was one of the best college left tackles in years and had a 99 pass blocking efficiency grade per pro Football Focus in his final year at WKU.
Dan Feeney is heading into his third season with the Chargers and was subject to much ridicule this past season for his poor play. Where Feeney struggles most is on both, stunt and delayed blitzes. I’m not sure if he is just too quick to move away from his initial read or if he is slow to react. It may even be as simple as he needs to scan his eyes back after he looks off a linebacker. I’m going with a hunch that Feeney is going to have a bounce back season. A move to his more natural position at right guard instead of the left may help from a mental familiarity aspect. Feeney is simply to strong and has too much tenacity not to bounce back. Even though he may struggle to pick up the blitz, this guy almost never gets moved off his spots or blown off the line. Even if he average overall, his execution on pulling plays is excellent and one of the reason’s I liked him out of Indiana so much. He has great anticipation and quickness in order to get out in front of the play and square his shoulders and hips up to would be defenders.
If Russell Okung cant be ready for the season then the lack of depth at the tackle position is going to get exposed rather quickly. In this case Scott would have to continue to fill in on the blindside while Tevi or Michael Schofield compete for the right tackle job. Coach Lynn has recently stated that he is considering Schofield at the tackle position which is probably just another indication of just how far off Pipkins is. Either way I believe that the team will need to stand strong with the interior line of Lamp , Pouncey, and Feeney to create some stability because if Okung can’t suite up then prepare for a constant shuffle at the tackle positions. Sometimes i will give guys a pass if they grade out decently even though they didn’t pass the eye test, however both Tevi and Schofield constantly fail in both categories. If Okung has a prolonged absence then it would behove the team to seek outside help one way or another.