Projecting the Chargers’ offensive line depth chart in 2022

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Over the next couple of weeks, we will break down the depth chart for each Chargers position.

Quarterback

Running back

Wide receiver

Tight end

Today, the focus is on how the offensive line will look heading into 2022.

Left Tackle: Rashawn Slater

Slater was phenomenal as a rookie, earning a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team, a Pro Bowl selection, and second-team All-Pro. His 83.6 overall PFF grade was 8th best in the league among tackles, just behind three-time All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk. Barring injury, the second-year pro should once again excel while protecting Justin Herbert’s blindside and could be in the conversation as one of the best five tackles in the entire league.

Left Guard: Matt Feiler

Despite some fans clamoring for Feiler to move to right tackle, he seems firmly entrenched at left guard, where he produced the 12th highest overall PFF grade in the league a season ago. The former Steeler was originally placed on the left side to help aid Slater’s transition to the pros, a move that paid off and then some. Heading into year two as a Charger, he and Slater will continue to pave the way for Austin Ekeler, who saw his efficiency spike on runs to the left side in 2021.

Center: Corey Linsley

Ranked as the NFL’s best center by PFF analyst Ben Linsey in May, Linsley actually had the platform’s second-best grade at center in 2021. (Chiefs center Creed Humphrey was first.) Regardless, GM Tom Telesco’s decision to shell out big bucks for the former Packer has already proven to be a genius move, as Linsley has held together a developing line in front of Herbert. Center is widely considered the most important position on the offensive line, and having an experienced and elite one as the Chargers do should help propel them to offensive success.

Right Guard: Zion Johnson

Finally, we get to a new starter. Johnson replaces Oday Aboushi, who played well before tearing his ACL in October, and Michael Schofield, who was signed off the street in September because of his familiarity with the Chargers. Schofield was actually fairly effective in 2021 according to PFF, who ranked him tied for 39th in overall grade amongst guards, with the same grade as 2021 first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker. That Johnson is replacing him is less an indictment on Schofield and more a vote of confidence from the team in the Boston College product, who the Chargers made the 17th overall pick this April. While he likely won’t make a Slater-like impact in his rookie year, he should be an effective all-around player who will be NFL-ready from his first snap.

Right Tackle: Trey Pipkins

The most pressing question of the Chargers’ offseason has been the plan at right tackle. After watching free agency go by without an addition despite a few value propositions available, the team then neglected to draft a tackle at all, unless you count Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer, who played left tackle in college but will likely be an interior lineman in the NFL. Both privately and publicly, the team has always maintained that they had faith in their in-house options: 2021 starter Storm Norton and 2019 third-rounder Pipkins. The latter is currently my favorite to win the job, following an offseason which he spent working with acclaimed offensive line coach Duke Manyweather. Pipkins was always a developmental selection as a former Division II athlete, and 2022 will likely be his chance to prove that he was worth the selection.

Swing Tackle: Storm Norton

Speaking of Norton, the belief in the building has long been that the loser of the training camp battle at right tackle will become the swing tackle, hence Norton’s placement here. The former XFL player actually wasn’t a terrible run blocker a season ago per Pro Football Focus’ metrics, but he frequently looked out of his depth as a pass protector. Considering the work teams in the AFC have done this offseason to combine two lethal pass rushers, the proposition of trotting Norton out there to get flattened by the likes of Chandler Jones or Randy Gregory seems suboptimal. However, his run-blocking proclivities will make him a decent swing tackle piece.

Swing Guard: Brenden Jaimes

The projection here ultimately comes down to whether you think Jaimes or sixth-rounder Jamaree Salyer will be the primary backup at guard. I lean Jaimes primarily because I think the Chargers staff will treat Salyer the same way they did Jaimes a season ago: cross-train him up and down the line and use his rookie season as effectively a redshirt. A fifth-round pick in 2021, Jaimes played tackle at Nebraska but mostly worked at guard with a few reps at center over the course of his rookie season.

Backup Center: Will Clapp

Clapp has experience playing for new offensive line coach Brenden Nugent, who came to the Chargers from the Saints, where Clapp had spent his entire career until this offseason. While he also has experience at both guard spots, he’s the most proven center not named Corey Linsley on the Chargers roster. Zion Johnson only learned how to play center at the Senior Bowl in February because of injuries to other players, while Jaimes and Salyer have little live experience at the position if any. Rather than move Johnson over and elevate a guard into the starting lineup if Linsley is forced to miss time, it seems much more logical to have Clapp step in and weather the storm.