Why the Chargers’ offensive line is a top five unit
As Matt alluded to, the Chargers gave up a pressure almost once every three plays (29.8 percent) in 2016, with Rivers being hit 98 times.
In 2017, Rivers was pressured on “only” 26.8 percent of his throws, close to the first-ranked pass protecting line of the New Orleans Saints allowing Drew Brees to be pressured on 25.6 percent. This, and a positive trend in reducing sacks over the last year, demonstrates the improvement in the line in front of him. Here are the last five seasons of sack numbers for Rivers:
That last number is not a typo: Rivers was rarely sacked in 2017, with the number 18 appearing like an outlier when compared to his entire career. Some of that credit has to go to the offensive line. The Chargers’ signal caller was also “only” hit 76 times, down 22 from the year before.
More kudos must go to the line for being able to perform well in the passing game given only one offseason to fill four of the five starting spots. After departures from tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin, right guard D.J. Fluker and a position change for then-center Matt Slauson, the Chargers did some shuffling of the roster to put out a starting five of Russell Okung-Slauson/Dan Feeney-Spencer Pulley-Kenny Wiggins-Joe Barksdale. Given the circumstances, they did a good job.
The line could also be projected as a top-five unit if Forrest Lamp, the future right guard, is included in the starting group. Widely considered one of the best guards in the draft, Lamp has a chance to improve the interior of the line further.
So far, so good. The numbers do point toward improvement, and there is hope that some of the players themselves can take a step forward. However, some stats can be misleading…