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Bolts' offensive line looks to be more productive

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Kevin Acee , UNION-TRIBUNE
    Friday, September 10, 2010 at 8:24 p.m.

    You enter the Chargers offensive line meeting room expecting to learn from Hal Hunter how to grade an offensive lineman and leave knowing it would be silly to grade an offensive lineman.
    Hunter, an offensive line coach with a short haircut and perpetually furrowed brow, speaks in anecdotes that make you smile precisely because he doesn’t smile when he tells them. He makes a point in a way that leaves no doubt he is correct and speaks as if the point he is imparting is obvious, all without being condescending.
    “You play golf,” Hunter says as a follow-up to his explanation of why he evaluates rather than grades his players. “You’re playing with Tiger Woods. You hit your ball 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. He hits it 300 yards, but it’s over in the fricking woods. Your next one you hit it on, 20 feet from the pin. He hits his into the sand trap. He chips in for a bird. You two-putt for a par. Now you played the whole really well, but the evaluation is his birdie is better than your par. It’s all based on production.”
    Hunter spoke one afternoon this summer as he and a visitor watched on a giant screen most of the offensive snaps from the Chargers playoff game against the New York Jets. It was an attempt by the visitor to gain a better understanding of what exactly it is everyone will be scrutinizing in this season where the Chargers offensive line will arguably be under more scrutiny than ever before.
    It didn’t take long to choose a play for the purpose of illustration.
    On the first snap, LaDainian Tomlinson took a handoff and ran around the left side for a five-yard gain.
    It wasn’t a bad play, but it wasn’t nearly what it could have been.
    Why not? (Hint: The answer is not that the offensive line stunk.)
    What did happen? A whole bunch of things, actually, but it all started with the Jets shifting, having linebacker Bart Scott walk out over wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Jackson blocking Scott instead of his assigned man, safety Kerry Rhodes . Ultimately, while left tackle Marcus McNeill executed a fantastic block that Tomlinson followed and Kris Dielman got a hit to divert his man despite slipping on the wet turf, it was Rhodes who came up and tackled Tomlinson.
    Oh, the line had its breakdowns that day, but in play after play a running back or receiver or tight end or even the quarterback bore the blame that a stadium full of people and millions watching placed on the backs of five large men. Factor in play calls, possible changes to them, the defensive alignment and its possible shifts, and it is a fact that much of the time there are about two dozen people in the world (all on the offense in question) that actually know the intricacies of a play’s success or failure.
    “The blitzes are so complicated; the schemes are so complicated,” Hunter said. “Unless you know exactly what we’re doing, you’re just guessing.”
    It is indisputable the offensive line was not its best in 2009. Beset by injuries, it must shoulder some blame for the Chargers ranking last in the NFL in yards per carry.
    Still, by way of production, Philip Rivers has passed for more than 4,000 yards each of the past two seasons and the Chargers led the AFC in scoring en route to going 13-3 in 2009.
    Yet the Chargers offensive line has gone from being hailed as among the best in the business from 2004 to ’07, when Tomlinson was slashing and dashing to an average of better than 1,500 yards per year, to being considered soft and ineffective over the past two seasons, as Tomlinson’s abilities waned and Philip Rivers blossomed.
    The linemen have declined to publicly get into the OL or LT debate. But told it appeared the line is on a mission this season, Dielman acknowledged, “That’s a fair assumption … We have goals we’ve set we want to reach. It’s time to put up or shut up.”
    They will embark on that mission with a missing part and a new weapon, both of which will mean more pressure (and more scrutiny).
    The line is without McNeill, a two-time Pro Bowler, which most people presume will leave Rivers’ blindside more vulnerable as Brandyn Dombrowski will make his first start there in Monday’s season opener. Also, Tomlinson is gone, and the team traded up to take running back Ryan Mathews with the 12th pick of the draft, prompting many in the organization to declare with certainty that the running game will be better.
    “I’m especially looking forward to a significant upswing in production in our running game,” General Manager A.J. Smith said this week. “We need balance in order to enhance our chances for success. We have a very talented group of linemen. They are hardworking, tough, physical and a very prideful bunch. They have been through a lot the last two years. They are on a mission individually and collectively. I’m really looking forward to watching them play and doing everything they can to help us win. They are motivated for other reasons beyond just winning.”
    Playing the offensive line requires brute strength, but its execution at the NFL level is also about technique, hand placement, leverage and footwork. Every snap is choreographed chaos. Watching and listening to Hunter and assistant Mike Sullivan coach the linemen is to see and hear them talking about being lined up over one shoulder, punching inside one number, stepping six inches this way or that.
    Said Hunter: “The margin of error is so small in the NFL you have to eliminate that margin of error.”
    Hunter spoke in terms of getting better. And in this year of his unit’s attempt at redemption, he expects just one thing:
    “We have to go out there and be productive.”
    And then we’ll all evaluate.
  2. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Jan 19, 2006
    they want to prove it, here's their chance
  3. LaDeezie21

    LaDeezie21 BoltTalker

    Aug 26, 2005
    We'll see what happens tonight.
  4. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006
    Dombo either delivers or Rivers is dead.

    That should have all fans on the proverbial edge of their seats tonight.

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