The Chargers’ Wall of Protection

Philip Rivers has one of the best offensive line in the NFL. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Philip Rivers has one of the best offensive line in the NFL. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

SAN DIEGO-The assumption is that the San Diego Chargers will go as far as quarterback Philip Rivers’ right arm will take them. But the truth of the matter is that the Chargers will go as far as the offensive line is able to protect Rivers long enough throughout the season so that he can unleash his lighting-quick release before opposing defenders can get a hand on him.

The key for any quarterback’s success is protection. The Chargers have arguably the best human shield protectors in the league.  Rivers has some pretty good bodyguards up front that allows him to stay upright long enough to complete passes to his wide array of receivers that include Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal and Antonio Gates .

In fact, you go by the Chargers’ passing statistic from last year, the O-line is among the best in the NFL. Rivers completed 378 out of 544 passing attempts for 4, 478 yards and 32 touchdowns during Mike McCoy’s first-year run as head coach. The Chargers ranked fifth in total offense, while Rivers was, statistically,  the league’s Top 5 QB. The Bolts were No. 4 in passing offense. That’s not by coincidence.

The trenches is where the boys are separated from the men. This is not a  line of occupation for someone looking to play bingo. This is where the grits hit the pan. At just about all costs, the O-line must protect the quarterback. They scratch, pull, sometimes bite, launch elbows and knees, and throw phantom punches with a bit of Mike Tyson intensity, all in a day’s work of protecting their quarterback.

San Diego Chargers lineman King Dunlap keeps Philip Rivers blindside protected. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
San Diego Chargers lineman King Dunlap keeps Philip Rivers blindside protected. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Rivers’ wall of protection has been pretty good to him, especially last season when he was able to bounce back strongly from a sub-par year in 2012. Rivers, who took  over the starting quarterback job in 2006, was sacked only 27 times in his first year as a starter, 22 times the year after, and 25 times in two straight seasons (2008, 2009).

All of this while Rivers managed to throw for over 3,000 yards the first two years and playing all 16 games. In 2008 and 2009, Rivers passed for over 4,000 yards through 16 games. In 2013, a rebound year for Rivers, the Chargers’ offensive line allowed just 30 sacks of their quarterback in 16 games. Rivers went for 4, 478 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.

As the Chargers embark on their 2014 NFL season with an opening day date against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the expectations for Rivers and the Chargers’ offense to be even better than last year, is way high. Thanks to the men upfront, this should come into fruition. There is the human mountain in 6-f0ot-8, 330-pound King Dunlap, who guards Rivers’ blindside at left tackle. Steady Nick Hardwick mans the center position. Second-year stud D. J. Fluker tenaciously occupies the space that is called right tackle.

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Meanwhile, Johnnie Troutman (right guard) and Chad Rinehart (left guard) help create room in the middle for Rivers to find his passing lanes and for running back Ryan Mathews to do his thing. The offensive line is a quarterback’s best friend. They serve and protect. Offensive linemen will go to no end to keep their signal-caller from any kind danger and harm on the football field. To that end, Rivers has to be thanking his lucky stars.  He has some of the best in the NFL.

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