Continuing the theme of breaking down players on the roster, today we break down the newest member of the Chargers, Matt Slauson. In a recent interview with Xtra 1360, Slauson said you can make an argument that he fits better at center. That's interesting coming from a guy who had primarily played guard throughout his career other than a handful of spot starts this past year. Slauson said that he likes the added pressure at the position. Early in OTA's Slauson has been taking 1st team reps at center.
What I did was watch each of the games where the Bears played an AFC West opponent, where he played two at center and two at left guard. I also watched Slauson against the Rams hyper-athletic defensive front to see how he handled them. Everything was consistent, whether good or bad. So it's easy to see why the Chargers acted quickly in trying to acquire Slauson. Here's what I saw.
Something that can jump off the screen right away for a lineman is power. With Slauson think of the first time shaking hands with someone who had a handshake that made you shake it off to get rid of the pain. That's the kind of strength in his hands Slauson has. On double teams, he has a few "wow" blocks where he had the defender on skates. He snatches you up, and that's pretty much all she wrote. That was almost the entirety of the Charger game.
Carrethers kinda gave him the business(beat him 4x) but Slauson did a good job at the 2nd level & vs everyone else pic.twitter.com/w5WROh5zrO— KP (@KP_Show) May 4, 2016
He's so damn big and strong that he can just absorb contact when guys get their hands on him first. Where Slauson does run into trouble in the run game is that his feet don't always move when he's "in the phone booth." Slauson will be in engaged, or look to engage a defender, and said defender was able to get around him because his feet get stuck in quicksand.
Working in space
This doesn't mean Slauson has poor footwork because that couldn't be further from the truth. He isn't a great athlete, and it doesn't take long to figure that out. Where Slauson excels at is understanding angles and getting out of the gate fast. Some players are uber-athletic but because they are in their stance too long they can't get to their spots. Whether it's pulling or working to the 2nd level. Quick feet and his ability to open his hips allow Slauson to get his to where he needs to be.
Slauson isn't graceful, and it doesn't always look pretty, but he does his job and keeps himself in between the ball-carrier and the defender. That's what matters when the play is over. Against the Rams, he helped spring a 79-yard touchdown run. Watch him rumble out in space, break down, and cut the safety.
That's impressive. That's what Melvin Gordon needs. Something like that to help spring him.
Because his feet to get stuck in quicksand and he gets off balance every now and then and whiffs at the second level, the run game isn't Slauson's strong suit. That's not to say he's a slouch; he just has areas I mentioned that he can work on. On a scale of 10, I'd say Slauson is about a 7. Which is more than competent and quite the upgrade from the Notre Dame duo the Chargers fielded a year ago.
The reason the run game isn't his strong suit is because he is a dog in the passing game. The object is to keep Philip Rivers upright then there's not a better option than their 3rd round pick and Slauson. In the 5 games Slauson gave up 1 sack and that was against some scrub named Aaron Donald. Handling stunts. Check. Finding work when you're uncovered. Check. Keeping defenders at bay 1-on-1. Check. I've mentioned how strong he is and that's apparent when defenders try to bullrush him. What I do like is that Slauson is aggressive in pass protection and looks to make the first contact.
You can tell that this isn't Slauson's first rodeo. He's not easily fooled by counter moves. He's patient, and he trusts his strength if he is to lose on an initial move. Under control is something you notice when watching Slauson. He's calm and just isn't going to overreact. The sack he gave up against Donald he won initially, but Donald countered with his hands and redirected the opposite way. He basically just beat him to his spot. Quicker defenders can get the better of Slauson. Here's a look at him against the Raiders.
Slauson vs the Raiders pic.twitter.com/5JKA8JBTOG— KP (@KP_Show) May 7, 2016
I'd give Slauson an 8.5/10 in pass protection. I love his awareness when he's uncovered. That was another big issue with the center position a year ago.
What to expect
The Chargers did a great job of upgrading the center position with a reliable veteran. Slauson is country strong and compliments the rest of the offensive line well. Though not a great athlete he has the ability to make plays in space last years centers could not. An easy upgrade that if nothing else gives you great depth and is a stopgap center for when Max Tuerk is ready to take over. Watching 5 games on him I'm much more comfortable with the signing and can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing Rivers will have a pocket to step up into. This whole "sign/draft" good players strategy is a nice change and something I could definitely get used to.