The finale of the 2021 regular season left an extremely sour taste in the mouths of Charger fans. After all, the overtime loss was against a divisional opponent and it also kept them from snagging a postseason birth in Brandon Staley’s first year as an NFL head coach.
Despite an incredible performance by Justin Herbert in the waning moments of regulation, the entire game will unfortunately be remembered for the horrendous performance put on by offensive tackle Storm Norton against the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby. He left the field in Las Vegas having let up 11 total pressures (three higher than his next season high) and with a 43.4 overall game grade by Pro Football Focus.
So of course when something that abysmal happens, change is inevitable. After all, that level of play has no business being near a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
On Monday following the team’s first OTA, Staley was asked how the right tackle position was shaping up thus far in the offseason. Fortunately, Staley didn’t just throw out the names of Norton and Trey Pipkins as many would probably have expected him to. He also highlighted current left guard Matt Feiler (played right tackle in Pittsburgh) and some of the “younger guys” they have who played tackle at the collegiate level. The first name that comes to mind from the group is obviously rookie Jamaree Salyer who held down the blindside at Georgia for this year’s national championship team.
“I think that we’ve got two guys from last season that played quality football for us in Storm and Trey,” said Staley. “I think those guys are going to compete. Then we’ve got several guys who have played right tackle. Matt Feiler being one of them. We’ve got some of these young guys that have played tackle in college. And again, there’s a lot of time between now and our first game but I think those guys are going to duke it out. We’re excited to see those guys continue to improve. I think what’s not lost on us as coaches or in our organization is that we were a really good offensive football team last year. Trey and Storm have both played a lot of winning football for us and we expect those guys to continue to improve.”
Staley isn’t exactly wrong to say both Pipkins and Norton played “winning” football for them in 2021, despite that phrase sounding a bit off when naming both players in the same sentence. However, Pipkins helped the team beat the Broncos to avoid a season sweep and he almost helped the Chargers sweep the Chiefs in mid-December. Of course, Norton was the team’s starter for most of the season on the right side and it’s true that he helped the team to most of their nine wins on the year. But then I must ask, how many of those games were won in spite of Norton’s performance and not so much due to his contributions? I think this is a fair thing to ask.
At the end of the day, however, at least the coaching staff isn’t going to settle for just one or the other winning the position. If there is another player on the team who could be better and offer more at the position than either Pipkins or Norton, it’s then their responsibility to make it happen instead of sticking with an incumbent for the sake of doing so.