If there was a glaring weakness in the San Diego Chargers’ offensive unit last year, it was the offensive line.
The Chargers in 2008 went from one of the best rushing offenses to one that was mediocre. San Diego was ranked seventh in 2007 with 127.4 yards per game and dropped to 20th in 2008, with the production falling to 107.9 yards per game.
True, some of that was due to the departure of Michael Turner and the injuries sustained by LaDainian Tomlinson.
But most of the lack of production came from the offensive line’s lack of physicality. There was no push to move the pocket upfield. There were no holes opened. There were no lanes for LT and Darren Sproles to run through.
The offensive line was stuffed at the point of attack, and if a unit gets stopped at the point of attack, there is no marching forward.
Left tackle Marcus McNeill looked pedestrian after two Pro Bowl seasons. Right tackle Jeromey Clary was subpar, and it did not help that starting center Nick Hardwick spent time on the injured list.
So what did Chargers general manager A.J. Smith do?
He drafted guards Louis Vasquez out of Texas Tech and Auburn’s Tyronne Green. Both will probably compete to replace Mike Goff, who left for Kansas City.
But other than that, there were not real changes on this offensive line. Smith has gone with his usual mode of operation, building the team through the draft.
This is the same roster that many heralded as the most talented only a couple of years ago, and there hasn’t been that much change since then.
Smith is going to stick with his laurels and go with guys he knows have succeeded before.
Smith is hoping that the line, under the tutelage of Hal Hunter, will regain its physical form that made the Chargers one of the most productive offensive running teams in the league.
But if the offensive line fails again, then the Chargers won’t be so super charged.
It may not cost them a playoff spot or the AFC West crown, but a weak line—as evidenced in last year’s loss to Pittsburgh in the playoffs, where the much more physical Steelers dominated the game—may end San Diego’s playoff run short.