Injury woes have Chargers shuffling offensive line
Anthony Lynn has already done more shuffling to the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line over the first three weeks than most coaches do in a season.
Unfortunately for Lynn, more changes might be in store as the Chargers prepare to face one of the league’s more aggressive defenses.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Trai Turner did not practice Wednesday as the Chargers (1-2) began preparations for Sunday’s contest at Tampa Bay. Bulaga, who had already been dealing with a knee injury, left Sunday’s loss against Carolina due to back problems. Turner has missed two games due to a groin injury.
Both were major acquisitions during the offseason. Turner came in a trade with Carolina while Bulaga was signed after 11 years with Green Bay.
The uncertain status of the right side of the line adds more woes to what has already been a trying season for Lynn and offensive line coach James Campen. Center Mike Pouncey was lost for the season due to his hip. Of the five starting linemen from last season’s opener, Sam Tevi and Dan Feeney remain in the lineup, but they are playing different positions.
Tevi moved to left tackle during the offseason and Feeney has gone from left guard to center after Pouncey’s injury. Feeney also moved to center last season when Pouncey played in only five games before being sidelined with a neck injury.
“This is the most shuffling I’ve done probably in my entire life, but we’ve got to make it work,” Lynn said. “Under the circumstances, they’ve played OK.”
Despite not having the same line in consecutive games, Los Angeles has rated well. They’ve allowed only six sacks, but quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tyrod Taylor have faced consistent pressure.
The Chargers are ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards and eighth in passing yards per game, but their line metrics are more toward the middle of the league.
ESPN’s line blocking metrics, which take into account information from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, have them 16th in run blocking and 25th in pass protection. STATS LLC has the Chargers’ pass protection ranked 22nd due to the amount of hurries and knockdowns they have allowed.
“The train is always gonna keep rolling, so you just have to kind of have a base knowledge, and everybody has to kind of be on the same page with communication and calls and things of that nature,” Feeney said.
If Bulaga is unable to play, it would be another huge blow. Trey Pipkins, who was selected in the third round last year, filled in for Bulaga last week and would likely get the start if he couldn’t go.
Tyree St. Louis or Ryan Groy would get the call at right guard if Turner couldn’t play for a second straight week.
“A lot of young guys have stepped up and played. We are getting some valuable experience, which will help us. Every man will have to play at some point this season,” Lynn said.
After allowing two sacks to Carolina, which went into the game with none, the Chargers have a daunting challenge against the Buccaneers, who have one of the league’s best pass rushes. The Bucs are tied for third in the league with 12 sacks, linebacker Shaquil Barrett has an NFL-leading 21.5 sacks since the start of last season, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul got to the quarterback in five straight games.
Tampa Bay (2-1) also comes into the game allowing only 73.3 rushing yards per game since the start of last year.
“They’re one of the top five defenses in the league and they are that for a reason,” Feeney said. “They’re just loaded up there. So we’re gonna definitely have our work cut out and try and figure out a scheme to get some yards.”
NOTES: QB Justin Herbert got all the snaps as Tyrod Taylor did not practice. Lynn did not say, however, that Herbert would get the start for the third straight game. ... WR Mike Williams (hamstring) and DE Joey Bosa (triceps/ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Bosa did not practice on a Wednesday two weeks ago but did the remainder of the week. ... Lynn said Desmond King is the leading candidate to replace injured CB Chris Harris Jr., who will miss at least the next three games due to a foot injury.
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