COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers had three new starters along the offensive line to begin the 2017 season, but still managed to have much better production than in year’s past because of better overall health.
The goal for the Chargers during the upcoming season will be to come back and prove that last year’s effort was not a fluke.
On the bubble: Donovan Clark
The good: For the first time in three years, the offensive line mostly stayed healthy. The Chargers used just four different starting offensive line combinations during the 2017 season. Having more consistency up front led to better chemistry and cohesion. The Chargers allowed a league-low 18 sacks and paved the way for Melvin Gordon's 1,105-yard campaign. Okung, an expensive free-agent acquisition, helped to solidify things up front with his consistent play at left tackle and also added leadership to the offensive line room. Feeney stepped in at left guard in place of Slauson and played well in nine starts as a rookie. Schofield also did a nice job in spot duty, with five starts at right tackle in place of Barksdale, who dealt with a nagging foot injury most of the season. First-year offensive line coach Pat Meyer did a nice job of getting this group to mesh, along with building depth on the back end of the roster with players like Tevi, Brett Boyko and Schofield.
The bad: While Gordon totaled 1,105 rushing yards, the Chargers as a team still averaged just 3.81 yards per rush, No. 26 in the NFL. Lamp, selected in the second round, suffered an ACL right knee injury during the first week of training camp that required surgery, cutting short his rookie year. Okung and Barksdale had the the most penalties among the offensive linemen with six apiece during the 2017 season.
The money: Okung is scheduled to make $12 million in guaranteed base salary for the upcoming season. Barksdale is set to make $4.5 million in nonguaranteed base salary in 2018. The Chargers could create $3.8 million in cap savings by moving on from Barksdale. However, the LSU product played injured, missing six games over the last three seasons and is one of the better pass-protectors on the roster. Lamp will make $768,041 on the second year of his rookie deal, while Feeney will earn $634,000 and Tevi will make $555,000. Pulley will make $630,000 in the third year of his rookie contract.
Draft priority: With Barksdale having turned 30 this month and Okung turning 31 in October, the Chargers could look to take a developmental prospect at offensive tackle early in the draft. However, Tevi showed some promise in limited duty last season, including one start at left tackle in place of Okung. The Chargers also have some work to do in getting Lamp healthy and also finding a long-term home on the offensive line for the Western Kentucky product. Lamp worked at both guard positions during training camp. With Wiggins set to become a free agent in March, the Chargers could look to use Lamp at right guard if Wiggins proves to be too pricey in free agency. “Everything is on target,” Chargers GM Tom Telesco said about Lamp’s return to the field. “Hopefully at some point in OTAs he’ll work back in. The positive about him getting hurt early is he’ll be on the field early. He got hurt in August, so hopefully at OTAs he’ll be back on track.”