It’s been a long offseason filled with questions for San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Most of those questions have revolved around his obvious struggles in recent years to protect the football and lead his squad to victories, but perhaps the Bolts’ signal caller should have just directed those inquiries to the guys in charge of protecting him.
There’s no denying that the quarterback is going to get the bulk of the unwarranted credit for wins and the majority of the undeserved blame after losses in the NFL. Rivers isn’t the only QB to face superfluous scrutiny in his tenure under center as many guys have been given the rap as turnover-prone unnecessarily.
But his 47 turnovers in two seasons are impossible to ignore.
What’s easier to overlook, however, are the 79 sacks that Rivers has suffered during that same period of time. That kind of constant pressure can make a quarterback antsy in the pocket and really throw off any semblance of rhythm or mechanics necessary to play the position effectively. Thankfully new general manager Tom Telesco recognized this deficiency when he took the job earlier this offseason and retooled the offensive line to the best of his abilities.
After purging Jared Gaither, the GM snagged King Dunlap to protect Rivers’ blindside for the 2013 campaign. Chad Rinehart was signed to replace the departed Tyronne Green at left guard while right tackle Jeromey Clary kicked inside to right guard to replace Louis Vasquez who left via free agency. The decision to draft mauler D.J. Fluker facilitated Clary’s move inside as Fluker will man the right tackle spot. Nick Hardwick at center remains the only holdover from just one year ago, and that seems perfectly reasonable given his track of consistency.
The new cast of characters in front of Rivers will be tested early and often on Monday night. J.J. Watt may be the biggest name-brand commodity that the Houston Texans have for rushing the passer, but he is by no means where their complement of quarterback harassers ends. Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed are more than capable blitzing off the edge while even Brian Cushing can take down the quarterback in some of Wade Phillips‘ exotic 3-4 schemes. San Diego’s new-look offensive line will be attacked from all sorts of angles, and that will at least provide the coaches will some quality film to analyze as the season moves forward.
It’s a dream scenario that the tweaks in the trenches fix what has ailed Rivers in recent years, but just moderate improvement could lead to a significant difference in terms of wins and losses. The Chargers may appear to be a team in rebuild mode, but Monday night’s tilt with the Texans will tell us just how far they remain from their ultimate goal.