CARSON, CA-The hysteria of the 2017 NFL Draft is over. Now it’s time to get to work. That means first round draft pick (No. 7 overall) wide receiver Mike Williams, second and third round draft picks Forrest Lamp (guard, No. 38) and Dan Feeney (guard, No. 71) will be going about the business to make quarterback Philip Rivers’ life easier.
After surrendering 36 sacks a year ago, the Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive moves through the first three rounds had to put a smile on the face of Rivers. Not only did he get a stud wide receiver in Williams to throw the ball to, he also got a down payment on a futuristic offensive line with Feeney, Lamp and center Max Tuerk, whom the Chargers drafted a season ago.
And if you throw in second-year tight end Hunter Henry, the Chargers’ offensive line looks pretty rock solid for years to come. That stability will come with the youth movement.
With recent offensive line mainstays King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker out the door, expect Feeney and Lamp and offseason pickup Russell Okung to bring the pain to defenders during the 2017 NFL season and beyond.
The Chargers were already the No. 8 passing team in the NFL last season. A Top 3 stat line in the passing game is a strong possibility with all the shuffling of talent the Chargers have managed to bring into training camp.
Even though he threw for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, protecting Rivers from harm’s way, and allowing him to go down the field and connect with Williams, Keenan Allen or Tyrell Williams, appears to be the Chargers’ No. 1 priority.
Not only will Lamp and Feeney assist in that area, the two collegiate stalwarts will also be counted on to create holes for running back Melvin Gordon, who nearly rushed for a 1,000 yards last season. Lamp and Feeney both made their introduction to fans a day after being selected by the team at the Chargers Draftfest, which took place at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
“It’s been a whirlwind.” Feeney said. “Ever since they called me last night…the past 24 hours has been crazy. Going out there and interacting with the fans a little bit, just seeing how passionate Charger Nation is, it’s great. It’s been a great experience so far.”
By all accounts, the Chargers looked as if they thoroughly did their homework in bringing in Lamp and Feeney. You might say the Chargers brought in the beef. A third-team AP All-American his senior year at Western Kentucky, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Lamp didn’t yield a single sack during his final two years as a starter.
Feeney, a two-time All-American guard at Indiana, didn’t make it a habit of letting his quarterback get touched too often, either, surrendering just two sacks out of 3,355 snaps taken. The first-year players, along with the team’s veteran offensive linemen, will no doubt be tested early when the Chargers open the season on Monday Night Football against Von Miller and the Denver Broncos defense, a unit noted for beating up on the opposing squad’s quarterback.
The Broncos ranked third in the league in sacks last season, recording 42 quarterback takedowns.
“This is the time of year where we lay a foundation for the season ahead, and the schedule release helps bring everything that much more into focus,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said prior to the draft. “You always have goals, but now we really know what we’re looking at as a team, as a coaching staff, and as an organization. From opening in the division on Monday Night Football at Denver to closing the season at home against a rival like Oakland, and everything in between, we now know the challenges that lie ahead.”
Solidifying the offensive line was an immediate challenge for Lynn and his coaching staff, a need they promptly addressed with the signing of Okung and the drafting of Lamp and Feeney.
Feeney said he has no expectations coming in, just to go at every drill and practice as hard as he can.
“I come in here like I do everything; I come in here with an open mind,” said Fenney. “I know I have to give it my all. I want to play. It’s that simple. I want to be part of a changing of a culture, getting this Charger Nation back on where it’s been wanting to go. I’m just excited to be here, blocking for Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, now Melvin Williams out there. It’s exciting.”
Besides his robust and stout appearance, the first thing you notice about the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Feeney is his warm, welcoming smile and his gracious demeanor. Obviously, being Mr. Nice Guy is not an attribute that Feeney has reserved for himself when he goes up against defensive linemen. When it comes to competing, Feeney is clear about one thing: he is not one to back down from a challenge.
That comes one place, he said.
Attitude,” Feeney said. “You’ve got to have an attitude about everything when you’re out there playing…attacking the playbook, just being competitive about everything. If we’re playing H-O-R-S-E, I’m going to beat you just because I want to. Having that attitude and that competitiveness, I think that’s the biggest part of it.”
If Feeney and the Chargers go with that attitude synopsis, they should be fine for the upcoming season. For now, though, Feeney, like any rookie having his named called during the NFL Draft, was stoked with excitement.
“As soon as I got the call, my heart started pounding,” Feeney said. “I’m like ‘This is it, man.’ This is that moment I’ve been working for, I’ve been waiting for. As soon as they said ‘Hey, we’re picking you up.’ I’m like ‘Let’s go. I’m a Charger, man. I’m excited and I’m ready to rock and roll.’”