LA Chargers: The silver lining of losing Mike Pouncey
By Steven Haglund
The LA Chargers lost Mike Pouncey to season-ending hip surgery, but it might be a good thing.
The LA Chargers suffered yet another season-ending injury. Four-time Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey is joining Derwin James and Drue Tranquill on injured reserve. He will undergo hip surgery later this month, which will end his season before it even started.
Pouncey’s tenure ended in Miami due to the same injury. He was told at the time that he likely would require a hip replacement down the road, and this probably doesn’t help. After playing all 16 games for the Bolts in 2018 and earning his fourth Pro Bowl nod, he,unfortunately was plagued by injuries.
His 2019 season ended after five games due to a neck injury that required surgery. He is a free agent after this season, so his time in Los Angeles is likely over. It would be a surprise if he played another game in the NFL.
Pouncey hadn’t practiced for weeks and the LA Chargers were extremely vague about the situation, which led many to speculate that he was having issues with his neck again. But each time a reporter would ask the team about it, they would downplay the situation and say that he was fine.
Maybe they were just holding out hope that the injury would subside, but that first official injury report listing was not a good sign. Then, the writing on the wall became very clear when the Chargers officially activated fullback Gabe Nabers from the practice squad.
While losing James and Tranquill are massive blows to the team, losing Pouncey is not the worst thing in the world. It’s a brutal turn of events for him as a person and a player, but for the team, it might even be a net positive.
The silver lining of Mike Pouncey’s injury for the LA Chargers:
The LA Chargers drafted Dan Feeney to be the center of the future, and have expressed a lot of faith in him over the past couple of years. Once Forrest Lamp’s status for that season was in question, they decided to sign Pouncey and moved Feeney over to left guard.
It’s been a long road for Lamp to get healthy, but he told reporters in training camp that he feels the best he ever has as an NFL player. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
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The long-term future of the interior offensive line has been so cloudy for the Chargers due to the health struggles of Lamp and Pouncey. Now, Pouncey is almost assuredly done in Los Angeles and the Chargers will finally get to evaluate Lamp and Feeney at the positions they were drafted to play.
Feeney has been a rock for the Chargers over the last few years and has been the lone constant upfront. He’s improved each season while in the NFL and will now get to prove what he can at his natural position.
He had his best game as a pro on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and did not give up a single pressure – per PFF. Feeney should benefit more than anyone than the Chargers change in scheme with the arrival of offensive line coach James Campen.
He’s a natural fit in the zone blocking that will best utilize his mobility from the center position. I expect Feeney to have a career year in 2020.
What the team has in Lamp is still unknown. We’ve only seen a small handful of starts, and one of them was against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. The entire team struggled that night, but Lamp was particularly bad against Cameron Heyward and company.
He should benefit from Campen’s coaching as well, and he was the team’s highest-graded offensive player in Week 1 – per PFF. I personally don’t think Lamp was better than Feeney or Bryan Bulaga on Sunday, but it was obviously nice to see Lamp have a very good game.
Where losing Pouncey hurts most is with the depth upfront. Having Lamp as your primary backup is a good situation to be in. Now, the team will look to Tyree St Louis to be the team’s main backup guard.
He showed some good things in his NFL debut on Sunday, particularly in the run game, but really struggled with the games the Bengals were running upfront. He got spun around a few times.
I also expect this means veteran Ryan Groy will stay on the active roster. Groy, St Louis and Scott Quessenberry isn’t the worst backup group in the world, but then again, having a player as talented as Lamp as a backup really was a luxury in the first place.
So yes, losing Pouncey hurts. Especially from a leadership standpoint, but in the long term this should benefit the La Chargers and provide them with the clarity upfront that they needed.