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The Chargers’ Changing Of The Guard(s)

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I take a closer look at how Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney fit the mold for a guard in an Anthony Lynn led ground attack.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so it’s been brought to my attention that I need to stop riding this high from the Forrest Lamp pick and come back down to earth. My “friends” and “family” are extremely “concerned” about my well-being, or something like that.

Sucks for them because Lamp-mania will never end.

I am, however, going to get back on a rational note and start delving into our two new (guard)ians for quarterback Philip Rivers and why they are perfect fits for an Anthony Lynn led run game.

To get a better idea of what to expect from Coach Lynn, I went back and watched a number of Bills games from last season. More specifically, the games when Lynn was at the helm of the offense. While watching I noticed Lynn really liked to get his guards out in space leading the way for his talented running backs. If you are a fan of Power runs, then you’re in for a real treat. The Bills ran Power just about every other play and they were also usually pretty successful.

Here are three of those run plays against the Bengals:

It’s always a pleasure to watch big offensive linemen do things that people don’t expect them to be capable of. Running in space and making athletic blocks on linebackers are a few examples of this. It’s also a big reason why I love Lamp and Feeney so much. On the flipside, this is the reason I grew bored of watching Franklin and Fluker on Sundays. As I scanned through the Charger’s games from this past season, I rarely saw either of those guys get asked to lead they way for Gordon. The Bolts barely ran pulling plays and they are the main reason why. You cannot have guards who look they’re wearing cinder blocks for shoes.

Example A:

It hurts me, deep down, to watch this.

If you aren’t able to utilize your guards in the pulling game then you better be pretty good at beating the defensive line man-on-man. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t their area of expertise, either. One of the things that crushed my soul the most was when I read that the Chargers led the league in Stuff Percentage. If you are unaware of this statistic, it is the percent of run plays that were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. It enrages me just to recall this stat for the article. *shakes fist*

At any rate, fans should not have to feel jaded towards their offensive line much longer. Why don’t we go ahead and take a look at a few plays from each player that exemplify the intangibles needed to succeed in the Power run game or any type of run game for that matter?

Running in Space

I’m fully aware this isn’t what people normally imagine when they think of an offensive lineman running in space. But come on, who doesn’t love big guy touchdowns? Lamp shows us he has more than just the wheels to run this into the end zone. He shows soft hands and some natural athleticism to wash his guy down before setting up the screen pass with some nifty footwork. It would have been fun to see someone try and tackle him but the blocks were just set up too well.

On this play, Lamp shows great closing speed on the linebacker before making the cut-block. I talk about Lamp and Feeney’s cut-blocking ability a little later on but this play developed in a way that made Lamp run a bit further downfield to get his man. On a cut-block, Lamp’s target is the linebacker’s outside leg. He puts himself into perfect position by running good tracks and allowing the play to bring the LB to him before throwing that forearm. A very nice job.

I mentioned this once or twice on the Live Draft Show following the selection of Feeney but I’ll say it again. The main thing that stood out to me when watching his film was how comfortable he looked running in space. He springs out of his stance and seems to just lock-on to whatever poor soul happens to be in his cross-hairs. In the above gif, Feeney pulls play-side on Power and just eats the defender up. This should become a common occurrence during the 2017 season.

Prick Attitude

As an offensive lineman, the greatest compliment you could receive from a coach or a teammate was being called a “prick”. At least it was when I was still suiting up. It also wasn’t so much your actions that got you labeled as a prick as it was your general mindset. Being a prick meant you were always the aggressor in the trenches. It meant that you always played until the whistle, and sometimes even long after it blew.

Lamp most definitely played his best game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. That game is the best to watch if you want to see how good of a football player he is. It’s the games against the lower level of competition where he really exerts his prick mentality. He is a man among boys against teams like LA Tech and Memphis. Above is a great example of Lamp keeping his foot on the gas even though he has washed the defensive end completely out of the play. These are self-esteem crushing plays for defenders. Enough of these and their wills will be crushed.

Feeney does the exact same thing here against Florida International. He takes the defensive tackle for a ride and doesn’t let up until he almost has the guy out of bounds. When I see plays like this, I think about what my old offensive line coach used to tell us: There is no greater feeling in the world than being able to move a man against his will, no matter how hard he tries.

He is still correct.

Skills at the Second Level

It amazes me that the Chargers somehow came away with two guards that are both VERY good at cutting defenders in the second level. They almost make it look too easy. I like the play from Lamp here because, as a tackle, he didn’t do a lot of pulling. It allows us to see his short area quickness as he executes a scoop pull around the tight end to meet the defender around the corner.

When the shot freezes, you can almost hear a narrator say “This is when #31 knew he messed up...”.

The clip of Feeney is equally impressive. Feeney takes great tracks up to the second level and throws a perfect club into the lower-body of the linebacker effectively taking him out of the play.

Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney bring a blue-collar level of work-ethic that this team hasn’t seen for quite some time now. The offensive line is no longer made up no-names and regressing veterans. It may be premature but Charger fans have every right to get excited about their offensive line in 2017. I know it will be a tough order so soon, especially after these last few years. I mean, how unlucky can one team be?

*knocks on wood so hard the coffee table shatters*

Hopefully, the training staff puts a lot of emphasis on vitamin use or something like that.