The Chargers offensive line had been one of the worst in the NFL the past few seasons. However, this off-season, LA invested a lot of resources to improve the o-line, and it appears to be paying off early in 2021. In today's Tuesday Film Room, we'll break down some of the good things the Chargers did upfront, and provide an outlook of this group's play all year.
The Chargers run game was the key to their victory over the Raiders on MNF. The Chargers finished 30th as a team in 2020 in rush YPC. However, so far this season, they are in the top 20 and averaging 4.1 YPC. This first play is a routine five-yard run. But, as we discussed in Monday's Film Room, routine runs that keep an offense on schedule are the key to a good run game. In this play, LA does a good job play side to create just enough of a hole for Austin Ekeler to get through and create a positive gain. The C/RG double isn't great, but Corey Linsley and Oday Aboushi do a good enough job. The key block is made by Storm Norton, the RT, who makes a good kick-out block that really creates the room for Ekeler to work. The freeze-frame shows how his back is turned to the hole. That is exactly what coaches want to see on runs designed to go between the tackle and guard.
Ekeler rushes for 8 yards in this next play. C Corey Linsley is the key player on this run. He makes a good combo-block first helping re-establish the LOS play-side with his initial double-team block with Matt Feiler. Then, he peels off and picks up the LB. The freeze-frame highlights another important block, which is the backside double-team with Aboushi and Norton. They get a great push on the DT, driving him back nearly three yards. What is most significant about their block is it essentially serves as a combo-block without either guy having to come off their block because of how far they drove the DT back. Denzel Perryman, number 52, cannot get around his doubled teammate and is forced to pursue the long way, which helps Ekeler get a few more yards.
In the next play, Feiler makes a great combo block to spring an 11-yard TD. This is not just a typical combo block. Feiler's initially down blocks, which really helps widen the gap Ekeler runs through. But then he goes from a down block to turn his body and perfectly picks off a LB that if he misses, possibly tackles Ekeler for no gain. The freeze-frame shows how Feiler's second block creates the alley. Feiler is having a great season as a run-blocker and he's been making plays such as this all season.
The Raiders were able to get two sacks and pressure Herbert some, but the Chargers did a good job in pass pro in this game, especially considering the Raiders were one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the NFL coming into this game. In this play, the Raiders rush four, and the Chargers stonewall everyone. The freeze-frame highlights how all four Raiders rushers have at least one Charger firmly between them and the QB. Herbert has over three seconds to throw, and he makes multiple reads comfortably before making the throw. The result is a 22-yard completion.
The next play is a play-action pass that ends up being incomplete, but the pass pro is excellent. Similar to the play above, it's a 4-man rush by the Raiders, and all 4 guys get walled off. However, this play is a great example of how the Chargers play-calling and complimentary gameplan helped their offensive line. The success they have had in the run-game forces the D-line to all play run first with any potential run-action as shown in this play. That slows their rush and makes it easier for the o-line in pass pro. Coaching also comes into play here as the Chargers have an extra offensive lineman in at TE in Michael Schofield. This is significant because Norton is a backup who had to block Maxx Crosby, one of the league's best pass rushers a lot of the night. The freeze-frame shows how LA got a 3-on-2 situation and really worked together to neutralize the left side of the Raiders pass rush.
The final play is a blitz pickup situation, and the Chargers did a great job. The Raiders blitzed two players on this play for a total of six rushers, and nobody can get home. Not only does nobody get to Herbert, but the freeze-frame highlights that Herbert has a clean pocket to throw from by the time he's ready to let it go.
The Chargers improved to 3-1 and are currently in first place in the AFC West after their 28-14 win over the Raiders. Their offensive line has played a key role in their early-season success. The QB, skill players, and a lot of the defense are the same from last year. However, LA has four new faces on the offensive line, and all the resources they put into their offensive line during the offseason are paying off.