Sports Out West

Chargers news: Offensive line clicking on and off field

Photo Credit: Jody Gomez | USA Today

The San Diego Chargers enter 2013 with several question marks, but none seem to be more prevalent than what to expect from the new-look offensive line. In the preseason, the Bolts made strides in the right direction, rushing for an average of 3.8 yards on 119 rushing plays. One glaring number, though is the unlucky number 13 — that’s the number of sacks they allowed during the exhibition season. Still, many of those can be attributed to plugging in backups into various positions and having little continuity. 

All things considered, the O-line seems to be in much better shape than it was heading into last season. In the 2012 preseason, the Chargers averaged a paltry 2.6 yards on the ground and gave up 12 sacks. 

From Chargers reporter Ricky Henne via the team’s official website this week:

The five starters on the offensive line certainly deserve praise for the way they’ve come together this preseason.  For the most part they’ve established a pocket for the quarterbacks to throw from and have paved the way for a strong running game.  The Chargers rushed for over 100 yards in each game, averaging 114.0 yards per game.  By comparison, the team ranked 27th in the NFL last season, averaging 91.3 ypg.  All the credit goes to the players and the coaching staff for buying in and making a commitment to form a cohesive unit.  According to the players they’ve done this by spending countless hours off the field together as well.

The rushing statistics are the most encouraging, because of the struggles in 2012 during the regular season. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked a career-high 49 times in 2012 largely due to the fact that teams were able to get substantial penetration up front without a strong run game to keep them honest. There was little consistency and chemistry, and that was easy to spot on the field. 

The numbers are encouraging, because any offensive line needs to communicate well as one unit in order to have any real success. The fact that they’ve been spending time together off the field bodes well for success on it.

This season, the Chargers will go as far as their O-line can take them. Nick Hardwick will again be the anchor that makes it all work and be a major part of bringing rookie D.J. Fluker up to speed and ensuring that King Dunlap can be as effective as possible in solidifying the important  left tackle position. 

They’ll all have a difficult early test with the Houston Texans coming to town on Monday Night Football. Last year’s ninth-ranked defense in terms of points allowed has gotten stronger, and with a true stopper roaming the field in J.J. Watt, they’ll have a true litmus test in Game 1. 

Photo Credit: Jody Gomez | USA Today Sports 


Editor’s note: Some information in this story has changed

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.