Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer 345d

Chargers offensive line shows improvement in 2017

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Inconsistent and uneven in their performance last season, the Los Angeles Chargers have played solid up front on offense and should continue to develop as the season goes on.

Led by the play of high-dollar free-agent acquisition Russell Okung, the Chargers have allowed just 11 sacks through eight games this season. Philip Rivers was sacked 36 times last year.

Okung and the rest of the offensive line are doing a nice job of keeping Rivers clean. And they've shown improvement in the running game, with the Chargers totaling an average of 110 yards in the last four games -- three of which were wins.

Don't take my word for it. Ben Muth of Football Outsiders is evaluating the Chargers' offensive line all season, along with those of the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.

Offensive line play is one of the hardest positions to evaluate in football. But Muth is a former offensive lineman who played at Stanford and is one of the best in the business at explaining offensive line play in layman's terms.

In his latest write-up on the Chargers in which he takes a look at the team's Week 8 contest against the New England Patriots, Muth had good things to say about the play of rookie Dan Feeney in his first NFL start. Muth analyzes Feeney's play against the Patriots, including this 87-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon.

Muth: "I also love what Dan Feeney [66] does at left guard. He may have the hardest block on the play. He has to chase down a linebacker [Elandon Roberts, 52] who should be flying outside at the snap because there's nothing keeping him backside, and then find a way to block a guy sprinting away from him. Feeney takes a good angle and chops him down clean. That's a really nice football play. Feeney was impressive in his first start."

Muth praised Okung's play at left tackle so far this season. Muth writes that although the Chargers did not get a win against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, Okung and the rest of the group up front showed promise.

In Muth's breakdown of two pass plays, he points out that the Chargers leave Okung out on an island in pass protection, allowing Rivers to slide protection to the right side.

Muth: "And that's the hidden value of a guy like Okung. He makes your right tackle so much better because you can always slide to him and essentially cut his responsibility in half. When you can trust one of your tackles to handle his business, you can find a lot of ways to help the other one to make them look better than they probably are. That's why you pay $53 million in free agency for a guy that never touches the ball."

Muth also does a nice job of breaking down what went wrong on Gordon's four failed attempts to score from a yard out against the Denver Broncos.

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