Charger fans would be wise to temper expectations for Jamaree Salyer

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Guess who

This photo seems a little oversized for the article.

That could be because I don't know what I'm doing with these HTML blog articles (confirmed)... but I'd prefer to say that it's a little piece of artistic expression, articulating how you can't minimize what a beast Myles Garrett is. A soft-spoken giant of a man, the overbearing physical presence and intensity of Myles brings week in and week out make him one of the league's few yet true gameplan disruptors.

In 2021, Myles had a pass rush win percentage of 25.6%. Essentially, once every four downs Garrett is going to beat his man and get to your quarterback. That win rate along with his 78 total pressures throughout the season, was 3rd amongst EDGE players last year with over 100 snaps played. Equally as frightening is his ability to not only GET to the QB, but to finish the play. The two players with a higher pass rush win percentage were Moxx Crosby and Rashan Gary; both finished 8 sacks behind Garrett's season end total of 18. Only TJ Watt finished with more sacks at 22, but Watt actually finished with 16 less total pressures. Garrett might not get the most wins, and he might not get the most sacks, but he is almost unparalleled in his disruption by being able to do both at an elite level.

In the run game, Garrett isn't winning at the same rate disruptive, but he's still a force. His 2021 stop percentage was only 4.3%, and average depth of tackle was 1.7yds, neither of which are elite when looking at the numbers (the top percentage among EDGE players with over 100 run defense snaps was 13.3%, achieved by Gregory Rousseau). It is fair to question how much of this is due to teams running away from Garrett, similar to how the Chargers frequently target their runs toward the strong side of their offensive line. Garrett's 6.5% miss tackle percentage shows how rarely he makes mistakes in the run game. To paint a picture... Joey Bosa was tied for missed tackles in the EDGE group with 9, a figure that earned him a 20.9% missed tackle rate. So although he's not regularly blowing up runs, he's also not giving them up.

If that's not enough, he was voted as the #11 Top Player of 2022 heading to this season. The below video has to be watched on Youtube, but it's worth it to remember who we're talking about.

LAC: 1-2; The No Good, Very Bad Start to the Season

Charger fans universally felt gut punched after Week 3. Still reeling from Justin Herbert suffering from torn rib cartilage in Week 2, they were forced to endure an offense line led by Will Clapp. Clapp's inadequacies at center are likely better articulated by his guards' PFF pass blocking scores of 29.6 and 29, against his own of 64 (by comparison, in the two games with a "healthy" Linsley, their scores were 69.1 and 69.1 in Week 1, and 72.6 and 39 in Week 4. 39 for Feiler in Week 4 also seems extremely low when reviewing film).

While witnessing this offensive nightmare, things spiralled from bad (Linsley and Allen already inactive, injured Herbert) to worse (Slater goes down, and a defense already missing JC Jackson loses Bosa).

Out trots Storm Norton, a player whose rise from practice squad casualty to XFL standout and eventual NFL camp battle winner is admirable, and should not be diminished. However, after a season of witnessing an otherwise stout offensive line with one glaring weakness at his right tackle position, and the occasional inadequacies of the coaching staff to properly scheme around this weakness to protect their franchise quarterback, Norton was somewhere near the bottom of players Charger fans trusted to protect the blind side of their already injured quarterback.

Norton's play was actually worse than one would expect from guy that made it through a whole season as a starter on a top-five offense. He allowed 3 hits on Justin Herbert on only 23 eligible snaps, while the rest of the line accounted for two across their whole 47 eligible passing snaps. His 8 total pressures allowed on those 23 snaps was abysmal, and he committed 2 of the 3 offensive line penalties that game... although one appeared to be a "business decision" where Storm took an egregious holding penalty to protect Herbert from (yet another!) hit.

The announcement of Rashawn Slater's season-ending torn bicep, paired with the staff's prior stubbornness to move on from Norton and bring in more competition at the tackle position, left fans with little optimism. A season in which we finally went "all in" felt cooked heading into Week 3.

Jamaree Salyer: Season Savior?

September 28th, 2022, the Chargers made another fundamental shift in philosophy, perhaps only rivaled in importance by when they finally made an aggressive offseason trade to acquire an established superstar in Khalil Mack.

Charger fans suffered through a 2021 season of watching porous right tackle play, and wondered why a mid-season shake-up wasn't experimented with. Pittsburgh Steeler fans were adamant Matt Feiler was a better right tackle than guard, leading many to wonder why we weren't giving him a chance to be a bookend. The entire 2022 offseason went by with no tackle acquisitions made, despite Staley admitting that he believed poor pass blocking had negatively affected their ability to regularly stretch the field. This observation was unprompted; Staley actually made this claim when answering a media question about the likelihood of the team targeting a speedy wide receiver to open up the deep passing game. Charger fans assumed a new right tackle was high on the staff's priority list... yet, no action was taken. Initial optimism from Jamaree Salyer's 6th round selection was quickly quelled by Staley indicating the staff drafted Georgia's star left tackle to play guard. Fans began to begrudgingly accept the staff simply was going to force another season of Trey Pipkins and Norton down our throats.

Against all odds, Pipkins did finally make a drastic Year 4 turnaround and currently seems to be realizing the potential Telesco saw in him back in the 2019 draft. That seemingly solved the right tackle spot, but the question remained as to whether Storm Norton, who the team seemed hell-bent on retaining, could actually be counted on as a swing tackle.

On September 28th, 2022, after Norton was responsible for a storm of pressures and hits on Justin Herbert while filling in for the hurt Slater, the Chargers finally admitted that the Storm Norton Project may have been a failure. After stressing continuity amongst the line since his arrival as head coach, Staley finally announced that they were going to give the rookie Jamaree Salyer a shot at left tackle.

Fans had no idea what they were going to get. Even so, the optimism was flowing, as it was widely assumed that Salyer's playing "floor" had to be higher than what we had seen from Storm, and we really didn't know how high his ceiling could be. This was, after all, a tackle that had shut down 2022 Overall Pick #2 Aidan Hutchinson in a college playoff game.

The result couldn't have been better. Jamaree Salyer looked like a franchise left tackle in his first game, earning a 90.4 pass block grade by allowing zero pressures on 40 eligible snaps. According to PFF, the entire line had a tremendous improvement over Week 3, allowing ZERO QB Hits and only 4 Pressures throughout the whole game.

Over the course of one week, Charger fans experienced the realization of their worst fears: Justin Herbert is hurt, and our offensive line appears to have suffered too many injuries to keep him upright. Enter Jamaree Salyer, and suddenly the season doesn't look so grim. Fans even had made tongue-in-cheek references to Salyer being the second-coming of Slater.

Coming Back Down to Earth: Comparing Garrett/Clowney to Greenard/Hughes

Although Houston has been in quite a slump since departing from the JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson era, the Texans pass rushers of today are hardly an easy assignment. Jonathan Greenard finished 2021 with an 89.2 pass rush grade, good for 7th in the league among edge rushers. Though they feature a fairly balanced rotation, Greenard's starting bookend is Jerry Hughes, who boasted an 81.1 pass rush grade while playing for the Bills in 2021, which was good enough to finish with the 16th highest grade amongst edges. Their win percentages in '21 were 16.3% and 18.6%, respectively. Below, you can see how they have fared against the tackles they have faced through 2022.

Houston Eff Sacks Hits Hurries Totals 2022 Grade 2021 Grade
W1-IND LT Matt Pryor 99 0 0 1 1 45.3 75.2
RT Braden Smith 95.4 1 1 2 4 72.6 70.8
1 1 3 5
W2-DEN LT Garrett Bolles 98.8 0 0 1 1 77.8 77.8
RT Cameron Fleming 95.7 1 1 0 2 64.7 65
1 1 1 3
W3-CHI LT Braxton Jones 90 1 0 3 4 61.3 Rookie
RT Larry Borom 94 1 1 0 2 70.8 62.7
2 1 3 6
W4-LAC LT Jamaree Salyer 100 0 0 0 0 78.6 Rookie
RT Trey Pipkins 100 0 0 0 0 57.7 68.5
0 0 0 0

It's hard to not get excited to see a pair of defensive ends that have been responsible for averaging 1.33 sacks, an additional QB Hit, and 4.67 total hurries a game get completely shut down against what many assumed was a patchwork pair of tackles headed into the game.

Let's go ahead and compare those results to the impact the Browns edges have had on their opposing tackles:

CLE Opponents Eff Sacks Hits Hurries Total P 2022 Grade 2021 Grade
W1-CAR LT Ikem Ekwonu 90.9 2 0 2 4 53.7 Rookie
RT Taylor Moton 97 0 0 2 2 70.3 79.4
2 0 4 6
W2-NYJ LT George Fant 94.7 0 1 4 5 54.7 Rookie
RT Max Mitchell 94.7 1 1 2 4 47.7 71.1
1 2 6 9
W3-PIT LT Dan Moore Jr 98.5 0 0 1 1 59.6 57.5
RT Chukwuma Okorafor 97 0 0 2 2 72 62.2
0 0 3 3

In glazing over these stats, the Browns opposing tackles have actually allowed less sacks and hits than the Houston opponents, but have accounted for an extra two hurries a game.

Pass Blocking Eff Avg Avg Sacks Avg Hits Avg Hurries Avg Combined
HOU Opp 95.48 1.33 1.00 2.33 4.67
CLE Opp 95.47 1.00 0.67 4.33 6.00

Judging the potency of the Browns edges by the performance of the tackles certainly doesn't tell the whole story, as it doesn't account for situations where Garrett bounces inside or wins a pass rep on a stunt, but it's still interesting in establishing a baseline for evaluating Salyer post-game.

Connecting The Dots: What Can We Determine From the Numbers?

To be blatantly honest: when researching for this article, I was hoping to find a greater discrepancy between how the Houston opposing tackles have performed compared to Cleveland's. This is actually a further credit to how well Salyer and Pipkins played last week, as it shows the Texans edges are a legit pair, and the Chargers should feel real proud of themselves.

To only real conclusive piece of data is found in Myles Garrett's individual numbers, as he has consistently been an absolute menace.

PassRushMetrics Hughes Greenard Garrett Clowney
2021 PR Grade 89.2 81.1 92.7 69.1
2021 Win % 18.6 16.3 25.6 14.9
Wk1 Win % 18.9 9.8 28.6 11.5
Wk2 Win % 8.7 18.2 15.4 26.1
Wk3 Win % 29.4 11.1 18.8 inactive
LAC Win % 11.5 4.5 TBD TBD

Throughout 2021 and 2022, the lowest win percentage Myles Garrett has been held to was 9.1% in Week 2 of 2021 against the Texans. Although they schemed to slow Garrett down, the offense still ended up giving up 12 pressures on the day, so the attention Garrett commanded clearly helped free up his teammates.

Did the Texans show the league the keys to slowing Garrett down? Not exactly. He answered back by following up that performance with a freakish 46.2 win rate percentage, 5 sack, 8 pressure game the following week against the Bears. Absurdly, that was the second highest pass rate win percentage he had on the year, his highest being 48.1% in Week 8 against the Steelers.

Surprisingly, former 1st overall pick and career mercenary Jadeveon Clowney has been grading the lowest out of these four edges, aside from one strong Week 2 performance. Strictly extrapolating his performance of 6 total pressures given up in 4 games against very respectable edges (including Maxx Crosby), this game is a great opportunity for Trey Pipkins to continue his breakout year with another surprising performance against a player with a bigger name and reputation than his recent stats support.

Now, for the biggest question:

What Sort of Baseline Can We Establish for Slayer?

It's completely unrealistic to assume that Jamaree Salyer can roll a zero pressure game against a very, very formidable Houston Texas into a zero pressure game where an absolute juggernaut of a human is across the line of scrimmage. It's hard to isolate Garrett's matchups as well to give left tackle performance comparisons for Salyer, because Garrett can be used as a chess piece across the Browns defensive front to try and give him the most advantageous matchup possible.

For example, in 2020 Garrett was tasked with facing two high-end tackles: Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr of the Ravens. In Week 1, Stanley was award a 100% pass efficiency rating for this game with no pressures allowed, while Brown Jr was awarded a 96.7 while giving up two pressures, but no hits or sacks. Garrett was still moved around the line with creative schemes and rushes to earn a win rate of 23.1%, including 1 QB hit and 5 total pressures.

By their second matchup in Week 14, Stanley was injured and Brown Jr was at left tackle with a familiar face at right tackle, DJ Fluker. They had efficiency ratings of 94.8 and 95.2, respectively, allowing no sacks and five pressures between the two of them. However, Tyre Phillips played 9 snaps at right tackle and allowed 3 sacks and a pressure for an efficiency rating of 56.2%. Garrett was surprisingly quiet in this game, achieving a below-norm 17.9% win rate and only 3 hurries. However, the team's 4 sacks and 20 total hurries suggest they did a decent enough job getting to the QB.

In 2021, Garrett averaged 4.5 pressures a game, including 1.05 sacks and .88 QB hits. In three of those games, he managed at least 8 pressures, and twice managed a pass rush win rate of over 46%. He has the ability at any given moment to go berserk on a defense in any given week, or to command so much attention that his team is able to feast.

I propose we resist the urge to expect excellence from our young rookie warrior this week, and hope he is merely able to show he belongs in the league, as opposed to roll last week's success into some sort of dominant streak. My baseline metrics for what I would consider "goog":

"Good" Stats Against Myles Garrett: 3-4 Hurries, 2 Sacks, 1 Hit, 18-24% win rate

It is extremely hard penciling in sacks when we know Herbert is hurt, but you have to assume a force like Garrett is going to get to your QB, especially when your left tackle is your least experienced lineman and a 6th round rookie. If Jamaree manages this sort of statline, I still believe he has the makings of a stud... we'll just have to be open for further evaluation in the games to follow. If he falls below it and allows a couple extra hurries, I also wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater... this is a GNARLY matchup!

"Great" Stats Against Myles Garrett: 2-3 Hurries, 1 Sack, 1 Hit, 15-18% win rate

If Jamaree Salyer is able to go out in his second start, hold Myles Garrett below his sack and hurry averages, and only allow 1 additional hit on Herbie, I would consider this a huge win.

This compounds if the team can achieve either of the two scenarios below:

"Good" Stats Against Cleveland Defense: 14 pressures, 2 Sacks, 2 hits

In 2021, the Cleveland Browns averaged 16.4 total pressures, including 3.1 sacks a game and 2.23 hits a game.

So far in 2022, the Chargers are managing to only allow .5 sacks a game, 2.5 hits, and 12.75 hurries.

No one can expect the Chargers to trend below our average pressures, sacks, and hits against this aggressive and talented Cleveland front. If we meet in the middle and allow 14 pressures, including two sacks and two hits, and Jamaree's stat lines resembles one of the two suggestions above, our team would have plenty to be proud of and our team should be able to come up with a big "W" in Cleveland.

"Great" Stats Against Cleveland Defense: 10 Pressures, 1 Sack, 2 Hits

Anything near or below these numbers would be a major win in the eyes of this fan. In Week 1, we allowed 8 pressures against Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby, albeit with All-Pro Rashawn Slater in the lineup. Week 2 featured Storm Norton and Will Clapp finishing the game for an injured Pipkins and Linsley, and the Chargers allowed 13 pressures against a Chiefs team with lesser edge players but one of the best interior lineman in the game. Things got ugly in Week 3 when 26 total pressures were allowed against a surprising Jaguars unit, but 8 of those came from Storm Norton's 25 snaps and although Clapp was only credited with 1, I blame him for a handful of Feilers and Zion's respective 7 and 5 pressures.

As such, returning to a 10 pressure threshold, with only a sack (or two, if I'm being honest) and two hits seems like an elite performance against a stellar defense.

What Are Your Thoughts? Give Me Your "Good" and "Great" Baselines!

Let's work on setting our expectations now, with respect to how great of a player Myles Garrett and how great of a defense Cleveland has as a whole, so we don't fall victim of being caught in those moments where Salyer inevitably loses a rep.

All stats were provided by PFF Elite

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.