LA Chargers head coach Brandon Staley made it official on Wednesday: rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater will not be suiting up on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. Slater was placed on the covid-19 list on Monday and could not supply the miracle turnaround with two negative tests to play on Thursday.
Starting in place at left tackle will be none other than Trey Pipkins, who Charger fans are more than familiar with. Pipkins has been awful in his career with the Bolts and there is a legitimate concern about how he will fare on Thursday in the Chargers' biggest game of the season.
While the offensive line underwent improvements in the offseason, the Bolts' offensive line being at its weakest point ahead of this game is less than ideal. And while it is really unfortunate that Slater tested positive for covid-19 and nobody is to blame in that regard, there certainly is someone to blame when it comes to the current state of the Chargers offensive line.
Tom Telesco is to blame for the LA Chargers offensive line in Week 15.
Yes, the Chargers finally put some TLC into the offensive line in the offseason and brought in several key additions. Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley and Oday Aboushi were all brought in to shore up the offensive line and early on in the season, it became clear that the starting offensive line was much better.
The problem is that Tom Telesco did not address the depth of the offensive line, at all. While it is hard to expect a backup offensive lineman to be great, the team certainly could have brought in better options than were on the roster but they didn't. The team rolled the dice and now they are paying for it.
The Chargers have three practice-squad quality players that are starting on the offensive line in Week 15. Storm Norton, who has actually been somewhat decent in recent weeks, is starting at right tackle like he has been all season. Michael Schofield, who was not even on a roster to start the season, has been starting at right guard since Aboushi got hurt. Finally, Pipkins, who has been horrendous in any chance he has been given, will be starting at left tackle.
Not only did Telesco simply ignore the depth of the offensive line, but the draft decisions that he has made on the offensive line have been extremely poor. Yes, he landed Slater, but that was about as easy of a pick that could have been made. He somehow fell to the Bolts at 13 and was a no-brainer. Where Telesco's draft evaluation really comes in is in the later picks.
The team selected Brenden Jaimes in the mid-rounds in 2021 and that seemed to be a great selection at the time. Jaimes is someone who I was a big fan of, yet for whatever reason has been dubbed as "not ready" by the coaching staff; so much to the point that they would play both Senio Kelemete AND Michael Schofield over him.
If the team viewed Jaimes as a "developmental" pick then they shouldn't have picked him when they needed offensive line depth now. Telesco made a similar selection with a different coaching staff in Pipkins, who the Chargers picked in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft as a developmental pick. Pipkins has been a complete dud in his career thus far.
Telesco absolutely deserves credit for finally doing what should have been done for Philip Rivers' entire career and building up an offensive line for Justin Herbert. However, it is still unacceptable that the team brought in virtually no quality depth behind the starters. Injuries happen every season and the team should have been prepared for players to go down, especially with covid-19 still being a factor.
So when you see the LA Chargers send three practice-squad-caliber players out there on Thursday Night Football you know exactly who to blame.