The honeymoon phase for the Los Angeles Chargers is over. After an aggressive offseason that saw the team upgrade its biggest flaws from 2021, there are no more excuses -- not even playing in the NFL's best division -- to not make the playoffs.
The performance of Justin Herbert and the defense will ultimately determine the Chargers' success, but the offensive line is flying under the radar in that regard.
Last season, LA finished 10th in Pro Football Focus' final offensive line rankings. When was the last time a Chargers team finished that high? It's been a while and the front office's overhaul last offseason is to thank for that after they drafted Rashawn Slater and signed Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler in free agency.
There's reason to believe the unit will improve with rookie Zion Johnson stepping in at right guard, but it goes without saying Slater is the anchor of the group.
That might seem obvious given Slater plays left tackle, but PFF's Sam Monson would seemingly agree with that sentiment (and then some) as he predicted Slater to become the NFL's best tackle this season in a recent article.
How high is Chargers LT Rashawn Slater's ceiling this season?
Here's what Monson said of Slater's breakout potential.
"Few tackles have entered the NFL looking as composed and assured as Slater. He was one of only four tackles who earned 80.0-plus PFF grades as both a run blocker and pass protector, and he did it in his rookie season. His biggest challenge came against Myles Garrett and the biggest problems he had with him were more to do with the chip blocks he was receiving than anything else. It would take a decline in play from the absurd level Trent Williams set in 2021 for any other tackle to sit atop the rankings, but if that happens, Slater has as good a chance as any to jump into that role with a Year 2 jump."
Worth noting that this qualifies as a "bold prediction," but are we sure it's that bold? As a rookie, Slater finished as PFF's eighth-highest-graded tackle as a rookie and he climbs to fifth if you only account for tackles who logged more than 1,000 snaps.
In 16 games, Slater allowed just 16 pressures and his 3.7% pressure rate tied Jedrick Wills' mark from 2020 for the lowest pressure rate allowed by a rookie LT since 2010. Nearly everything Slater accomplished in Year 1 suggests he's destined to become the game's premier tackle at some point down the road.
Is it that crazy to think he could make that leap as a sophomore? If vets like Trent Williams, Tyron Smith and Lane Johnson all take a step back, a pathway would open for Slater to ascend to the mountain top. Given the way he's performed at camp, this prediction has more than a puncher's chance at coming to fruition.