Will The Chargers' Offensive Line Improve In 2009?


Any smart NFL fan knows that a good offense starts at the line of scrimmage. Having addressed one piece to the Chargers running game with the retention of Ladainian Tomlinson, now the focus turns to the 2nd, and possibly most important piece: the offensive line. Much maligned throughout the 2008 season due to a combination of health issues and just poor play, the offensive line is one of the top areas that needs improvement for the Bolts.

"I just know we're not good enough. But I will say this, which I've said before: we need to have a solid, consistent running game. We have to." - AJ Smith

Having to improve the O-Line is a strange position for the Chargers to be in since it was just a year prior that three Chargers linemen were named to the Pro Bowl, including Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman (and Hardwick as an alternate). Add Mike Goff to the mix, and Jeromey Clary starting his first full-season at right tackle, and it seemed as if the Bolts had a line that could mix it up with anyone. But once the season started, it was a totally different story.

Hardwick started last season with a foot injury that never fully healed, and couldn’t even start until the 5th game of the season. McNeill injured his back in training camp and spent much of the season nursing the injury. Dielman was still a stud at the left-guard position, but Goff at right-guard was average, Clary was below average, and suddenly one of the Chargers' strengths became a big liability. The running game was effected the most, as evidenced by LT’s (or any other running back's) inability to find an opening in the line of scrimmage. When your former MVP-running back gets hit behind or at the line of scrimmage on almost every carry, you know you have problems blocking up front.

Now, heading into the 2009 season, things are looking better, but not by much. Yes, McNeill and Hardwick should be healthy and back to their Pro Bowl form, but as for the right-side of the line… just looking at the depth chart makes me ill. Penciled in (I hope lightly) to start at right guard is Kynan Forney, with Jeromey Clary remaining at right tackle. You might remember that Forney was supposed to back-up Goff in 2008, while Clary spent most of last year impersonating a revolving door for a lot of opposing defensive ends.

A lot of close games could have been won last year with better blocking up front, and we’re lucky that the Chargers’ playoff hopes weren’t squashed because of a lack of it. That’s why a lot of mock drafts show the Chargers taking an offensive lineman with their 1st round draft pick this year. AJ has noticed, as have most of the NFL experts, that this team needs to get better up front to compete. And actually, a lot of teams seem to be thinking the same thing, and that has me a little worried. Check out one mock draft, found here on BoltHype.com- http://www.bolthype.com/2009/03/chargers-select-tackle-eben-britton-in.html. Four of the top offensive linemen were drafted ahead of the Chargers’ number-16 pick, meaning our Bolts would be left with either a guy who might not be worth a mid-1st-round draft pick, or a guy who won’t fill the OL need at all. If they choose the later, you can almost forget about finding a new right guard or tackle this season. And then we’ll be settling for more of the same.

I thought I felt ill? I think I see Philip ralphing in a trash can in the corner…

March 24, 2009

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10 comments:

Anonymous said... Mar 25, 2009, 6:30:00 AM

Same thing happened in last years draft. AJ was going to take a OL player but settled for a CB because all the good OL players were taken before the Chargers pick. However, AJ failed to do anything in free agency to address this.

Now we go into the draft looking for a impact OL player, a replacement for Igor, a replacement for Jamal Williams and an impact safety.

I know AJ likes to build thru the draft but the Chargers needs can not be fulfilled totally thru the draft.

In the process he is letting Denver, KC and Oakland catch up or maybe even pass us by.

Also, lets not forget who the head coach is... Marty could get mediocre players to perform well. Under Norv, even the talented players underachieve.

I got a bad feeling about this year. Can we put Shanahan on retainer???

Rob Zepeda said... Mar 25, 2009, 7:26:00 AM

Wow, great comment ^^

Daniel Ferranti said... Mar 25, 2009, 8:24:00 AM

In response to Anonymous:
So Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Nate Kaeding, Mike Scifres, and Quentin Jammer underachived this year?

Norv was the reason the injury bug hit Hardwick, Merriman, McNeil, Tomlinson and Cromartie? The reason Ted Cottrell wasn't attacking with the defense in the first half of the season like Rivera was in the second?

I think an easy arguement could be made that the loss of Merriman as a pass rushing force had a trickle down effect in the secondary which hurt the play of Cromartie and Hart. Cotrell did not adjust to the loss of Merriman; adjustments that Rivera made. I think there was a Union Tribune article in the final couple weeks of last season discussing the improvements made by the defense in the weeks since Rivera took over.

We all know these guys are not on islands and groups of players act as units: if McNeil is playing hurt and Goff's starting to age then the players blocking next to them are going to suffer also.

Anonymous claims we need 4 impact players from the draft in an OL, DE, DT, S. My assessment would be more like pressing need at OL and DE. Highly desirable to get a replacement at ILB and S. Luxury to draft Jamal's replacement at DT.

I would say in the first round the Chargers could benefit highly from any of the following players dropping to them: one of the 4 top OT's, Tyson Jackson, BJ Raji, Rey Maualuga. I think it would take a perfect storm for all of these guys to be gone by the time the Chargers draft at 16.

Anonymous said... Mar 25, 2009, 8:56:00 AM

I agree with Daniel, the Defense struggled because of lack of pass rush with Lights' injury, Cotrell injected Tucker in thinking that the impact of him will be the same as Lights', tough to replace a 13-16 sack guy with pretty much of an unproven talent and hope for the same results, thus the secondary was covering too long and leaving people uncovered. The defenese performed much better when RR took over because he compensated for Lights' loss, the secondary played better and intercepted more passes because the defensive front was getting to the QB. Lights is coming back this year, and with the addition of Burnett will give us a presence in the middle with Coop, by adding another impact defensive player, I think the defense will vastly improve and be a force to be rekoned with in '09. The offense need to start hot and just keep the otherdefense on theit heels, if the Bolts get ahead in every game. i'm pretty sure the defense could hold the opponents off and preserve the wins, the key is not play from behind. Draft needs, DL/LB, OL, S, RB in that order or best player available on Defense. as pointed out in this column, the O-Line started with both McNeill and Hardwick injured, they will start and be at off-season and pre-season workouts and will start healthy this year, big difference.

Anonymous said... Mar 25, 2009, 3:16:00 PM

It is obvious they need lot of help either as starters or backups to aging starters...OL, DL, ILB, S and RB. I'm hoping they will trade down with a team that are desperate for skill position players such as QB (vikings, Rams to name a few) at that 16th spot. Than we can address some of these needs in 2nd round and 3 round.

Anonymous said... Mar 26, 2009, 8:15:00 AM

Just trying to say:
First, the Chargers can not fill all their needs thru the draft.
Second, Norv is not a great motivator. Look at the stats... Marty's last year 14-2, Norv's first year 10 -6 Norv's second year 8-8, Norv's third year ???

I'm behind this team all the way. But i think the biggest weakness on the team may be the head coach. A coach like Shanahan or Bellichik or Gruden may put this team over the top.

Also, yes we did have some unfortunate injuries, however, we were able to overcome injuries in the past.

Anonymous said... Mar 26, 2009, 9:41:00 AM

the comment about Norv i think is right, i dont see that killer instinct out of him like Marty S. He found a way to fire that team up every game. Marty already knew what he was going to do and that was pound'em pound'em and pound'em some more!!!

Dan Ferranti said... Mar 27, 2009, 6:23:00 AM

No team ever has all of its needs filled except maybe the 2 Pro Bowl teams.

Apparently Norv's teams can get motivated for the playoffs. Look at the stats...Norv 3-2 in two years. Marty 0-2 in 4 years. In 2008 Norv lost to the eventual superbowl champion. In 2007 lost to the 17-0 NE Patriots who went on to represent the AFC in the SuperBowl. Marty lost to the Jets and the Pats who were each in turn eliminated from the playoffs. Norv's 2008 8-8 team won more playoff games than Marty did in 4 years.

Of course if for some reason Norv doesn't make the playoffs next year I be on the shit can his ass bandwagon.

Jeff Williams said... Mar 28, 2009, 12:49:00 PM

Block a little better, and Norv once again looks like an offensive genius. It all comes down to the players.

Neoplatonist Bolthead said... Jul 24, 2009, 9:10:00 PM

@ first poster: How can you say Norv's teams aren't motivated? How many 4-8 teams have you seen make the divisional round? Don't tell me: I know the answer.

@ article: Clary is underrated. Goff fell off the cliff last year, and Clary ended up with insufficient support at times. He is a little bit too slow for the job. If Kynan Forney (former Pro-Bowler) is an upgrade over over-the-hill Goff, or if Vasquez steps in seamlessly, then Clary will just need some help on the outside against speedy rushers. If McNeill really is back to 2006 form (big if), he'll get that help whenever he needs it and Rivers will post outrageous numbers. If not, the Bolts' passing game should experience a slight year-over-year decline. We'll be able to test for clear improvement before the bye, but the first eight matches (nine weeks) will be required to determine what it means.

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