I remember it like it was yesterday.
The San Diego Chargers took RT D.J. Fluker in 2013 draft and left everyone to ponder what the Chargers would or would not do with Jeromey Clary. Tom Telesco made it clear that Clary would be evaluated first at right guard before deciding his fate.
From that day on, I made it a concerned effort to pay close attention to the transition. You see, moving from right tackle to right guard isn't as easily as everyone thinks. It isn't musical chairs, it isn't just "moving to another cubicle", it's a whole new world even though you're just six inches from your last position.
How to play Guard
Jeromey Clary is and has been one of the strongest lineman on the Chargers roster since his arrival. Clary relies heavily on his strength to get the job done and the right tackle spot allowed him to play more snaps in an upright position, which he obviously felt most confident in.
The problem is 'Guard Play' is slightly different. To become a good one, you must possess these 3 main attributes:
- Proper Footwork: For "down blocking", hip turning on zone runs and sharp, efficient steps when called upon to pull.
- Different Mental Approach: Guard play is difficult because you are playing, learning and executing on the fly. You don't have as much "recovery space" as a tackle does. A guard must take a more mental approach to every snap.
- Agility: Close Quarter and Open Field. Guards need to be agile enough to play at opposing DT's pad level while able to channel strength while backpedaling in pass protection.
The Chargers out-flanked the right side of the line after the motion. It is true that a 6:3 ratio would mean double teams by everyone but a 5:3 ratio should still work in every player's favor whom is on that side. At the snap, Clary is immediately stood up and he can't turn his hips to give Ryan Mathews a clear view of the (wide open) hole.
Clary can't get beat to the spot like this consistently. The DT did everything he needed to do. If Jeromey Clary can at least get squared up here, Mathews cuts off of his right butt cheek around the time that D.J. Fluker and Eddie Royal are doubling the OLB. Ryan made the most of it but had to burrow into 3+ defenders.
The ball was spotted at the 15, Clary got to the 16. Nick Hardwick and D.J. Fluker got to the 18. Imagine if Clary could have gotten his man back that far.
They credited King Dunlap's man with the tackle, but it's clear it was Clary's assignment who made that play.
Scroll up and re-read point 3, please.
Guards must be able to play at DT's pad level. Did you see that here? Ok, then.
Like the animation states, San Diego is lucky that this play was designed to get outside because it was disaster from "Hut". Clary is irrationally slow out of the block and playing Right Tackle sometimes covered this up because he had "recovery space". At the guard position, not so much. And when bad guard play happens, it typically resembles this.
(Note: You may say that Clary was "right" to let him run upfield on the reverse. If so, why blatantly grab him?)
To be fair, As a unit, The starting offensive line was sound. To continue the trend of scrutiny, Jeromey Clary only played 12 snaps. I covered 2 of them and left 3 out due to keeping this series short and sweet.
Part II of this series will see if the right guard was able to improve throughout the preseason or if Chargers fans should be concerned heading into Week 1.