After the 2017 NFL Draft, if you were to ask me, “Hey Michael, which of the two guards selected from last year’s draft do you think will have the greater impact this coming season?” my answer would have 100 percent been “Uhhhh.....Forrest Lamp, obviously.”
Unfortunately for me, the BFTB staff, and the fans, but mostly me, there was not to be a sighting of Lamp on the football field that year. The malicious turf monster snatched the innocent, pure rookie on the very first day of pads in training camp.
With Lamp sidelined and my tear ducts ran dry, Feeney became the sixth-man along the offensive line and found himself on the field much sooner than anyone anticipated. During the second-half of the Chargers first victory at the StubHub Center against the Denver Broncos, starting left guard Matt Slauson went down with a torn bicep and was lost for the remainder of the year.
“Dan’s been growing like a weed, and he’s ready.”
These were the words head coach Anthony Lynn had as he announced Feeney as the starter moving forward. And by golly, the rookie was.
Feeney went on to start the final nine games of the regular season, playing an integral part in the Chargers finishing the year on a 9-3 stretch after a horrendous 0-4 start through the first month of play.
Coming out of Indiana University as a two-time All-American who played significant time as a true freshman, the team knew they were getting a steal in the third round when #66 was still on the board.
Just an extra effort play by Feeney. Philip breaks the pocket to the left and Dan works overtime trying to keep him clean and get every last fraction of a second for the throw.— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) June 16, 2018
Effort: +++ pic.twitter.com/yevoXOzmCv
One of the biggest reasons to love Feeney is that he encompasses that midwestern, blue-collar work ethic that can help separate the good offensive linemen from the great. There are so many offensive line linemen that get drafted higher than they should based on the fact that draft analysts believe they have a “huge upside.”
The fact remains that there are plenty of other traits and characteristics to look for in an offensive line prospect that that have a higher success rate of transitioning to the next level. Many people covet elite length, athleticism, and “basketball feet”. These don’t nearly coincide with NFL success as much as fundamentals, mental processing, and overall consistent effort. Feeney gives you all of the latter, but not so much of the former. This is likely why he wasn’t touted higher as a prospect.
Pin-and-pull block from the Spencer Pulley (73) and Kenny Wiggins (79). Feeney works up to the backside backer while Okung "slingshots" the 3-tech.— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) June 16, 2018
- Feeney works to the playside # of 52 and benefits from the hesitation.
- Finishes the block LIKE HE SHOULD pic.twitter.com/dxQFlkENYc
This is another play that exemplifies the extra effort Feeney puts into his game. From the snap, Feeney gives a quick jab to this outside shade before releasing to the second level in order to cut off the backside linebacker. Benefiting from #52’s hesitation, Feeney easily crosses his face and keeps the hole wide open for Gordon to scoot through. Even after completing his duty on the play, he finishes his man for good measure.
If there is one strong correlation between great offensive linemen, it’s the willingness to go that extra mile in order to demoralize your opponent play after play throughout the entire game. At this point, it looks like Feeney is in possession of this coveted trait.
Feeney really started coming into his own down the stretch of '17. However, those rookie hiccups still found their way in occasionally.— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) July 7, 2018
- Stopped his feet, didn't match defender's midline
- Hands made contact outside shoulderpads
- Gave defender his inside gap pic.twitter.com/Pzd9stPyHc
The elevated confidence in Feeney became noticeable as the season winded down. Less mistakes were made, his movements seemed more fluid and lacked any hesitancy. However, he was still a rookie and some of the mistakes he was expected to make did, in fact, happen. Above is a clip from the second meeting between the Bolts and the Chiefs.
On this play, the offensive line had a slide-right protection, meaning that Feeney and the rest of the line was responsible for the gaps to their right. Simple enough, yes? There was some breakdowns in Feeney’s fundamentals that led to some interior pressure that is a big no-no when it come to protecting Rivers, a quarterback with almost no mobility to his name.
With a 1-technique shaded on the center to Feeney’s side, he’s got to know that he must get himself fully in front of the defender, matching his midline with the opponent’s. When he shoots his hands, they land outside the defender’s chest which gives the defensive linemen the the win in the battle for leverage. Feeney can no longer fight to get back in front of him and he allows the penetration right up the middle.
By the fourth quarter of this game, things got to the point where Feeney was the best offensive linemen on the field for the Chargers as injuries kept piling up. At the point of the above play, the front five were (from left to right): Sam Tevi, Feeney, Spencer Pulley, Kenny Wiggins, and Michael Schofield. *throws up a little*
- Played a role in the offense with a good deal of responsibility. Was responsible for making sure all checks at the LOS were in before signaling to the center they were ready to snap the ball.
- Understands leverage when going against larger interior defensive linemen.
- Knows when to flatten angles when to climbing to the second level against faster defenders.
- Looks for work when it’s not presented to him off the snap in pass protection.
- Possesses the “prick/finisher” mentality that goes a long way at the NFL level.
- Above-average movement skills and athletic-ability allow for increased variances in the run game as Anthony Lynn loves to pull his interior linemen.
- Always gives the extra effort when plays break down. Will fly around looking for something to throw himself into.
- Knows how to execute zone steps with rock-solid fundamentals. Doesn’t allow iDL to split double-teams.
- ++ Functional Strength
- At 6-4 and 311 pounds, has the mass needed to help protect and control the depth of the pocket
- Becomes jumpy off the snap when he thinks he may get beat with speed.
- Needs to become more patient with this initial punch in pass protection.
- Will stop his feet when he thinks he has help with a defender, causing him to only work half a man.
- Can stand to lunge less. Usually happens when he doubts his abilities.
- Not the twitchiest in pass protection.
- Will commit to contact prematurely in hopes of guessing correctly to beat faster defenders
After playing in almost every game and collecting nine starts, Feeney has shown enough at this point to make Chargers fans believe he could be a mainstay of this offensive line for years to come. With the addition of Mike Pouncey at center and veteran Russell Okung on his other side, expect Feeney to come out in 2018 with a stranglehold on the left guard position. Add back in fellow guard Forrest Lamp to the mix and you’ve got the makings of one of the best offensive lines the Bolts have had since the teams of the mid-2000’s.