Last year, the San Diego Chargers had one of the most injured and least effective offensive lines in football. This offseason, the Chargers addressed that line by re-signing right tackle Joe Barksdale and adding Matt Slauson via free agency after the Chicago Bears released him from his contract.
Many people are actually rather optimistic about the chances of the offensive line bouncing back with a much stronger season than last year's, but at this point in time, all we have to go on is projection and conjecture. Today, we will look at the projection.
Kent Platte, of Pride of Detroit, has generated Relative Athletic Scores (RAS) for the starting offensive lines for all 32 NFL teams using data from the NFL Combine and individual pro days. Platte admits that the resulting numbers are not perfect as they suffer from a lack of context. An athletic offensive line (per RAS) is no guarantor of success in the upcoming season, However, he has found that an unathletic offensive line is predictive of an unsuccessful campaign.
With that in mind, Platte released his findings for the current projected starting offensive lines for 2016. The results were not kind to the San Diego Chargers lineup of King Dunlap (LT), Orlando Franklin (LG), Matt Slauson (C), D.J. Fluker (RG), and Joe Barksdale (RT). They had the seventh lowest (higher is better) RAS in the NFL and were just below the 5.00 threshold that suggests sufficient athleticism.
Among the Chargers starters, Dunlap has an RAS of 5.04, Franklin a 5.69, Slauson a 7.47, Fluker a 2.71, and Barksdale a 3.28. Clearly, it is the right side of the line that is dragging the numbers down. It's also worth noting that Platte found the number was least important for centers, so of course the Chargers' highest score is found there.
What does it all mean? Well, Barksdale was easily the best lineman the Chargers had in 2015 and he is the proud owner of their second lowest RAS. A lot goes into what makes or breaks an offensive line and this is only one component. There's also no guarantee that the projected starters even end up starting for the majority of the season. That said, you prefer not to see any unit on the team scoring in the bottom quartile of anything predictive of future success.
What do you think about Relative Athletic Scores and the Chargers' ranking in them?