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Is the Chargers’ offensive line worth a top five ranking?

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23: Philip Rivers
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23: Philip Rivers
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KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 16: Defensive end Chris Jones
KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 16: Defensive end Chris Jones

Why the Chargers’ offensive line isn’t a top five unit

Rivers was (except against the Kansas City Chiefs) regularly excellent at making this offensive line appear much better than it was. Let’s compare the last two seasons statistically, pulled from NextGen Stats:

2016:

Time to Throw: 2.65 seconds

Aggressiveness Percent: 18.7%

Attempts: 578

Completion Percentage: 60.4%

Touchdown/Interceptions: 33/21

Rating 87.9, 21st in the league

2017:

Time to Throw: 2.6 seconds

Aggressiveness Percentage: 16.7%

Attempts: 575

Completion Percentage: 62.6%

Touchdown/Interceptions: 28/10

Rating: 96.0, 11th in the league

In terms of time to throw, the numbers are almost identical. We as fans like to throw around the “If only Rivers had time to throw” idea, but it shows that given an almost identical average with a near exact number of attempts across two seasons, it truly does come down to how No. 17 handles the play and pressure.

Here’s a quick play from the 2017 season:

Disregard LB coverage issues and watch this bull rush by Ogunjobi. He puts Chargers' C Spencer Pulley in Rivers lap. pic.twitter.com/dz3CJM2YBl

— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) December 4, 2017

Grab a stop watch and time it: the ball is out in less than two seconds. The middle of the offensive line isn’t doing him any favors, particularly center Pulley. Where this would have been an incompletion or sack before, Rivers releases it almost immediately and finds the open guy. Great play diagnosis, great instincts. That makes the offensive line look better than it performed.

Another example of a great Rivers under-pressure play:

First play of the game. We’ve all seen how they schemed a 1v1 matchup for Tyrell vs the MLB, but I think Phil’s work in the pocket is largely lost. Kerrigan comes free right away, Rivers feels him, hops into an otherwise clean pocket and makes a strong throw. Subtle yet effective pic.twitter.com/VNowNEEBks

— The Lightning Round Podcast (@Lightning_Round) December 13, 2017

For a stretch of the season, Rivers was hanging in the pocket and making incredible throws in situations that would have been sacks or interceptions years prior. That goes to his credit, not the offensive line.

The biggest issue with the Chargers’ offensive line, however, has been their run blocking performance. Re-ranking the teams based on “Yards Gained Before Close (YGBC)”, the Bolts completely fall out of the top ten and down to 14th.

Regardless of how you feel about Melvin Gordon, it’s apparent that his offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors:

Elandon Roberts dropping Melvin Gordon for a loss of two on second-and-15. pic.twitter.com/R2hPQLamRv

— Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas) October 29, 2017

Watching throughout the season, it was evident that although indecision stymied Gordon’s own progress, his front five wasn’t regularly assisting him. 3.9 yards per carry does not win championships. Want to beat the New England Patriots in the playoffs? Look at the Philadelphia Eagles’ backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, who had 6.4 and 6.3 yards per carry, respectively, in the Super Bowl.

An inefficient rushing attack, coupled with masked deficiencies on the offensive line due to stronger quarterback play, hint at a lower-ranked offensive line than it was.

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