The offensive tackles have rightfully received much of the attention for the Chargers line transformation this off season, with King Dunlap tasked with holding down the fort on the left side and rookie DJ Fluker slated to replace Jeromey Clary on the right. However, those aren't the only offensive line spots looking to have turnover, as both guard positions will have new starters as well.
To fill in at the right guard position, Telesco signed Chad Rinehart away from the Bills. Rinehart did not play much last season, serving mostly as a fill-in for when a starter would need a breather. He did start two games, giving enough game film to make some observations on him.
At the Chargers OTAs, Clary played right guard with the starters and Rinehart was moved to left guard. Can he hold onto the left guard spot and be the starter all season? Let's find out. To do so, we'll look at the Bills week 6 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Rinehart started this game and only sat out a couple of series at the end of the first and third quarters. In all, he was in for over 70% of the Bills offensive snaps, about 50 plays total.
The Situation: BUF 9, ARI 10; 4:45 left in 2Q; 1st and 10 from the Buffalo 27
The Play: The Bills will line up with 3 receivers and 2 back, with the fullback offset to the right side. CJ Spiller will take the handoff, starting left. Seeing a linebacker that direction, he cuts it right, where Rinehart has helped create a big hole on the right side of the line. Rinehart pushes the defensive tackle to the left, helping open up the hole. Daryl Washington charges the hole to limit Spiller to a 3 yard gain.
The Lesson: Throughout the game, Rinehart did a great job engaging defensive linemen and pushing them back on running plays. He gets good push and is able to redirect the defensive lineman in order to open up a running lane. If Rinehart makes the starting roster, he will be a boon for the running game.
The Situation: BUF 9, ARI 10; 0:26 left in 2Q; 1st and 10 from the Buffalo 32
The Play: The Bills will line up with 4 receivers out, and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the shotgun, with Fred Jackson to his right. At the start of the play, Rinehart will block the tackle, while Erik Pears sets up to block the end. The end stunts inside, trying to take advantage of the gap now open between Rinehart and Center Eric Wood. Rinehart will pass off the tackle to Pears to pick up, and set up to block the end perfectly. Fitzpatrick gets the pass out to Jackson for 7 yards.
The Lesson: Rinehart handled this stunt perfectly, and generally did well in pass protection. He did not allow any blitzes up the middle come free, and kept Fitzpatrick clean for much of the game. Fitzpatrick was only sacked twice in this game, once in a coverage sack on the play after this one, and other given up by Erik Pears at the end of the second half.
The Situation: BUF 16, ARI 13; 4:42 left in 4Q; 2nd and 3 from the Arizona 40
The Play: The Bills will line up in an offset I, with Fred Jackson as the halfback. At the snap, Fitzpatrick will hand the ball off to him, and he will take it to the right off-tackle. Rinehart's task is to block Daryl Washington, who is lined up over him about 1 yard off the line of scrimmage. He gets his hands on Washington initially, but Washington is able to slip away, and run over to make the tackle, limiting Jackson to a 3 yard gain.
The Lesson: This is one of Rinehart's main weaknesses. He generally does well at the line, and gets a good initial push on defenders. He has trouble staying engaged though, and sometimes the defender will shortly give him the slip after the initial exchange. Sometimes this isn't a huge issue...the initial push back is all that is needed. In cases like this, however, it allowed the defender to get back into the play, and make a good tackle.
The Situation: BUF 16, ARI 16; 1:01 left in 4Q; 3rd and 14 from the Buffalo 16
The Play: It is the end of the second half with the game tied, and the Bills deep in their own territory. The Bills will simply run the ball here, and the Cardinals are running a prevent defense. At the snap, Rinehart will start to help with the defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. With Dockett well handled by Eric Wood, Rinehart moves up to the second level to take a linebacker. Rinehart has two options to block, Daryl Washington or Paris Lenon. Rinehart stalls for a moment, and Fred Jackson passes him only to be tackled by Washington.
The Lesson: This play shows two of Rinehart's other major weaknesses that I witnessed during this game. Both relate to his blocking on the second level. First, he has trouble making decisions on who to block. He will sometimes run downfield, but can't choose a person to block. Second, he does a really poor job when he does get there. He does well when asked to blocked defenders at the line, but when he has to run and then engage a blocker, the results throughout this game were comically poor.
Rinehart is a very capable blocker at the line of scrimmage. He gets good push back on the line on run plays, and has good awareness on pass plays to keep his quarterback clean. For the fundamentals on the line, he does extremely well.
Rinehart's weaknesses break down into two categories:
- He sometimes has trouble staying engaged on defenders. He will get a good initial push, but more agile defenders will give him the slip, and get into pursuit of the ball carrier.
- He is absolutely terrible when asked to block in open space. Running to the second level, pulling to the outside, or acting as the lead blocker on a screen play, he tends to perform very poorly on. If Rinehart makes the starting lineup, the offense will be best served by having Rinehart block primarily at the line. Putting him in motion to then block tends to lead to poor results.
Overall though, the offense would not fall apart if Rinehart were in the game. He is a player of fairly extreme strengths and weaknesses, and so long as the Chargers stick to those strengths, the offense would do just fine with him in the game.
Next we'll look at new signing Dwight Freeney. Is he still an elite pass rusher?