Offensive lines aren’t usually the focus of fans’ attention but the 2017 offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the Los Angeles Chargers’ success in Anthony Lynn‘s first year. Lynn went 9-7 and nearly made the playoffs thanks to his offensive line’s play up front.
The Los Angeles Chargers held opponents to a league-low 18 sacks in 2017. That’s half of the 36 they allowed the season before.
Now, Okung appears to be on the blind side of an offensive line on the upswing. Dan Feeney proved his value by earning his starting job as a third round pick on the left side. Forrest Lamp hit injured reserve early last year but he should be the starter on the right side once he is healthy. Spencer Pulley is entering his third year at center and he could develop into a good starter since he stepped up last year.
Also, Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,105 yards in 2017. This is largely due to the consistency found upfront.
The group only needed four combinations of starters in 2017 which is low for a group that could not healthy in prior seasons.
First-year offensive line coach Pat Meyer led a group that only averaged 3.81 yards per rush. Okung and Joe Barksdale were among the most penalized players at their position with 6 players.
Otherwise, Football Outsiders ranked No. 3 in adjusted sack rate and No. 26 in adjusted rush rate. Here’s what you can takeaway from the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line performance in 2017.
Collectively, the Chargers offensive line is a good blend of ideal size, strength and acceleration at their positions. They have good mental toughness to disguise keys before the snap. They have solid first step quickness and surge out of their stance. They’re good at using double teams to work up to playside backers. The line uses solid play speed to take the correct angles on outside zone.
As a unit, they used solid mental processing speed to recognize stunts. They were good at maintaining balance to recognize delay blitzes and stunts in pass blocking. The line had good footwork to handle speed rush and recover versus the pass rush.
Los Angeles had good competitive toughness to pass block from whistle to whistle. They will work to ride defenders out when they’re beat. Good competitive toughness to hustle downfield on passes and long run plays. The Chargers were largely consistent from snap to snap regardless of situations, especially in pass pro.
Elite defenders and first steps can beat them out of their stances. This unit can struggle with the one-on-one strength to blow down lineman off the line of scrimmage. They don’t always have the mental toughness to effectively pass off stunting defenders.
Los Angeles struggled with the foot speed and play strength to reach edge defenders with length and hands. They can struggle with the mental processing speed to pick up inside linebackers blitzing. They can also struggle maintaining balance and explosiveness when pulling and finding the second level defender on pulls due to play speed and mental processing. Elite speed rush can give them problems due to punch timing and foot speed. Versus interior blitzes, they can struggle with pickup due to punch timing and leverage.
They can also get beat across their face by defenders with quicker first steps. They struggle dropping anchor on the inside due to adequate leverage in pass pro, especially at the tackle position. They will lose balance versus elite pass rushers who can leverage their hands into the chest and push them back.
On any given week in 2017, the Chargers offensive line was solid to very good. They were a large reason why the Chargers nearly made the playoffs with a balanced rushing and passing attack.
Collectively, the line was good enough to execute run and pass plays versus various levels of competition. However, they did not always dominate inferior talent and they struggled versus elite units.
Considering the injuries and turnover this unit has had over the past few seasons, they were really the surprise of a resurgent Chargers offense. They handled injuries better this past season and were consistent especially in pass protection. Thus, they earn a B letter grade as the surprising leaders of Los Angeles’ offense.
Moving forward, the Chargers need to do more to sure up their tackles long-term. They struggled with elite rushers and speed consistently, especially on the right side.
Collectively, the unit did not punish down linemen or reach second-level defenders as much as they should’ve in the run game. Another offseason together should help them develop better play speed and mental processing as a unit. Either way, the group is on the upswing and the interior part of the line is a unit Los Angeles can build around.