Chargers O-line, best in years?

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23: Russell Okung
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23: Russell Okung /

The Los Angeles Chargers offensive line has been just short of a dumpster fire since Nick Hardwick retired and Tom Telesco took the reigns.  So to say it could be the best in years might not be saying much.  But let’s take a quick look back on where the line has been and where it is today.

In 2013, the Chargers made several changes to the offensive line. D.J. Fluker was drafted in the first round to play right tackle.  This was a move that never really materialized into what it was supposed to be.  Fluker’s play at right tackle was inconsistent.  He was moved to right guard in 2015 and eventually was let go of after the 2016 season when his play no longer justified his fat first-round contract.

Also in 2013, Chargers did not pursue re-signing Louis Vasquez, who was signed by the Denver Broncos and went on to be a Pro-Bowler in 2014 and was part of the Broncos’ Super Bowl team.

The team was done with changes in 2013 though. They moved Jeromey Clary from right tackle to right guard where he survived one season before being sidelined with injuries and eventually retiring. They also inserted 2012 fifth-round pick Johnnie Troutman into the left guard position after he sat out a year recovering from injury.  After 2013, Troutman was moved to right guard to replace Clary, but he suffered a forearm injury and has not played since.

The one positive move of 2013 was acquiring King Dunlap who became a staple at left tackle for the next four years and played admirably. Unfortunately Dunlap struggled with concussions and eventually was released and retired.

In 2014, Nick Hardwick suffered a neck injury and eventually retired. This opened the revolving door at center. Rich Ohrnberger, Trevor Robinson, Chris Watt, Matt Slauson and Spencer Pulley have all tried to fill the spot.  Some have done a decent job while others struggled.

Also in 2014, Chad Rhinehart was promoted to the starting lineup and given a two-year $6 million contract. He was released one year later.

In 2015, the Chargers went out and made a big free-agent signing, bringing Orlando Franklin to the team to play left guard.  Franklin underwhelmed while wearing the lightning bolt. He was released two years into his five-year contract and has not played since.

2015 did see a bright spot as Joe Barksdale was brought to the team. Joe has played well at right tackle the last 3 season.

In 2017 the Chargers made large strides to try and fix the festering dung heap of an offensive line they had. The first move they made was to land Russell Okung in free agency. He has solidified the left tackle spot for the Chargers.  From there, the Chargers attacked the draft, selecting Forrest Lamp in the second round and Dan Feeney in the third.  Unfortunately for the Chargers, Lamp suffered an injury in training camp and did not see the field in 2017. Feeney struggled early in 2017 but became a solid starter by the end of the season.

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In 2018, the Chargers again returned to free agency to bolster the line. They were able to sign Mike Pouncey after he asked for his release from the Miami Dolphins. Pouncey is a former first-round draft pick and should solidify the center spot in a way we have not seen since Hardwick.

Even though the Chargers did not select an offensive lineman early in the draft, it feels like they are getting a second rounder as Lamp is returning from injury.

The projected starting lineup for the 2018 Chargers looks like this:

Left Tackle – Russel Okung – 1st round pick in 2010 – 5th overall Left Guard – Forrest Lamp – 2nd round pick in 2017 Center – Mike Pouncey – 1st round pick in 2011 – 15th overall Right Guard – Dan Feeney – 3rd round pick in 2017 Right Tackle – Joe Barksdale – 3rd round pick in 2011

Just based on draft round numbers it is clear that this is the most talented line that the Chargers have seen in over 10 years.  Let’s hope that they look as good on the field as they do on paper.