Optimism surrounding the San Diego Chargers hasn’t been higher in nearly half a decade, but the team’s success hasn’t been without some serious carnage. In their most recent tilt with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bolts were actually down to their final five active offensive linemen midway through the contest. This war of attrition inevitably gets to every team in the NFL, but the Bolts needed this Week 8 bye more than just about any team in the league.
As mentioned, the game with the Jags took its toll on the team’s depth with the offensive line experiencing the brunt of the damage. Head coach Mike McCoy had only seven linemen active for the game to begin with, but early injuries to King Dunlap (concussion) and Mike Remmers (ankle) put the team on its last legs – literally.
With Dunlap out at left tackle, the entire line made a switcheroo with rookie D.J. Fluker filling in for the injured Dunlap and guard Jeromey Clary kicking back out to right tackle where he had played for the last handful of seasons prior to last year. Rich Ohrnberger entered into Clary’s vacated guard spot with Johnnie Troutman holding down left guard and the lone constant in Nick Hardwick at center thankfully healthy.
While this group has certainly been a patchwork unit for much of the year, the Bolts have found a way to make it work. In fact, quarterback Philip Rivers getting adequate protection has been a large reason for the team’s offensive revival. After the three teams tied atop the NFL with just nine sacks allowed, the Chargers are in a three-way tie of their own for sacks allowed with just 11 so far in 2013. That number is just astounding through seven games given the fact that the team allowed Rivers to get taken down a staggering 49 times in 2012.
But the improvement in pass protection isn’t all this San Diego offensive line has been good for. After three relatively disappointing seasons given his lofty draft status, running back Ryan Mathews has been pounding the rock with a purpose this season. He attributes most of his success to the big guys up front opening up lanes for him. The back told U-T San Diego:
“They’re doing a good job, opening holes. They don’t miss a beat. You just want to get in behind them and do what you can to help them out.”
Following his second-straight game over 100 yards rushing, Mathews told reporters to interview the offensive linemen instead of him for the recent success he had achieved. Even though his first score on the ground hadn’t come until last week, the 4.1 yards per carry that Mathews has been able to maintain this season says a lot about the line’s consistent level of play.
For a unit that has been markedly improved from last season, the Chargers have to be hopeful that this bye week has arrived at the perfect time to get them back to full strength. And if their consistent play is able to continue in the cold months of the season, look out for these Bolts making a serious playoff push in 2013.