When an offseason comes around it’s easy to think about what players your team could bring in; through the draft, or free agency. It’s easy to forget about your own.
April 28, 2017. The second day of the NFL Draft and arguably the best offensive lineman is still on the board. Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp wouldn’t have expected to be there then. However, he didn’t have to wait long before an OL needy Chargers gave him the call.
For their first year back in LA, the Chargers made a decision to reinforce their protection of quarterback Philip Rivers. They made a free agent signing of former Denver Broncos left tackle Russell Okung, and resigned one of their own, in Kenny Wiggins. Then, a couple of months later, they picked up Lamp and a further addition in 3rd round pick Dan Feeney. Their 6th round pick, Sam Tevi, made it three lineman in one draft.
The anticipation had been high for Lamp. His impressive college tape, mixed in with incoming head coach Anthony Lynn’s new schemes, it was a sure to be a success. Unfortunately, Lamp caught the Chargers injury curse. An ACL injury, suffered in August, would keep him from playing a single snap in Bolts uniform.
Even without Lamp, the additions proved a success. NFL.com’s Matt Harmon ranked the line as the 5th best in 2017. Although I think that’s a little high, it was a great improvement from the previous season. The group set a league low in sacks, with 18, and were in the top ten with 76 QB hits. The sack count was cut in half from the 2016 season. Melvin Gordon had his first 1,000 yard year since coming into the league. There were, however, some issues. The difference in ranking between sacks and hits, means Philip Rivers is also helping the line out by throwaways and being prepared to take those hits. Gordon averaged only 3.9 yards per carry on his way those 1,000 yards. Lamp is someone that can help in pass protection, and the running game.
What he does best?
The reason why I was so excited about the Lamp pick was his athleticism in Lynn’s system. The new head coach likes to have his lineman pull and get out into space. When Lamp moves in space he’s very good at finding the defender, locking on ans completing his blocks. He rarely gets beat; per Pro Football Focus, he only gave up five pressures during his 2016 season. The quality that Lamp went up against in college wasn’t the highest, but he did play vs Alabama, who displayed talented edge rushers such as Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams. Versatility is another key aspect of Lamp’s game, especially moving up to the pros. He has the potential to fill in anywhere along the line. So, that leaves the question…
Where does Lamp play?
This is biggest question for Lamp, is where he plays along the line. He played the majority of the time at left tackle at Western Kentucky, but that’s probably where he fits least at pro level, and Russell Okung is locked in there. Dan Feeney looked comfortable at left guard, so is penciled in there, for now. The same for Spencer Pulley at center. Now for the right side. Kenny Wiggins played at a good level at right guard, but is set to be a free agent, therefore the obvious choice, but maybe not the correct option for now.
That leaves right tackle. Joe Barksdale had injury issues last year, and struggled at times. He also gave up five false start penalties. Barksdale is still under contract for 2018, but could be looking at a pay cut, or being let go completely. I’d love to see the Chargers start with Lamp outside at tackle, at first. If it doesn’t work out, a move inside with always be available.
Obviously, first things first, Lamp has to stay healthy. Providing that happens, his ability and versatility can take this ‘good’ line, to the next level.
–Thomas Herd is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @chargers_uk.