There has been a plan ever since last season ended by the Chargers. After their first season post-Philip Rivers era, they had some holes on their team. One area that needed improvement was the offensive line.
The Chargers tried to get some reinforcements by trading for right guard Trai Turner and signing Bryan Bulaga to play right tackle. They moved Sam Tevi from right tackle to left while having Dan Feeney at left guard and welcoming their injured center Mike Pouncey.
During training camp, they lost Pouncey to an injury, and he decided to retire after the season. Feeney moved from guard to center while Forrest Lamp went to left guard. It was a tough season.
The Bolts couldn't run the ball as effectively as they wanted to while also allowing their quarterback to face constant pressure. Tyrod Taylor was the starter for one game, while rookie Justin Herbert took over after week two.
According to TeamRankings, Herbert was sacked 32 times, which ties him at number 11 with fellow rookie Joe Burrow. At times, Herbert took massive hits, but the Chargers knew that they needed to protect their rookie after the season ended.
The team fired head coach Anthony Lynn and while searching for their new leader, general manager Tom Telesco, and when asked about the offensive line, he was honest.
"I think there's a lot of improvement that needs to be made in that area," said Telesco in January.
The Bolts hired Brandon Staley as their head coach in late January. He might be a defensive-minded coach, but he knew that the offensive line needed work. It was evident when free agency started.
Chargers decided to let Feeney (Jets), Lamp (Buffalo), and Tevi (Colts) walk in free agency while also cutting Turner (free agent) after a disappointing first and only year with the team.
They started the tampering window of free agency by signing former Packers center Corey Linsley and former Steelers left guard Matt Feiler to contracts. A couple of days later, they added guard Oday Aboushi from the Lions, who played the last eight games of the season at a high level.
There are three potential starters, plus Bulaga, who got hit by the injury bug in 2020, but the Chargers hope he can bounce back. Before the draft, Staley knew they were missing a left tackle.
"Yeah, there certainly [is] a hole there right now," Staley said before the draft.
When the Chargers were on the clock, there had been a player who dropped to them in Northwestern left tackle Rashawn Slater. They didn't hesitate, and they selected him. To some NFL draft analysts, he was their top-ranked offensive lineman over Penei Sewell that went seventh overall to Detroit.
Immediately Slater informed the NFL what his number one goal is.
"I can't tell you enough how much it means to me to be able to join an organization with a quarterback like that," said Slater. "It's going to be everything for me to make sure that he is protected."
The Chargers starting five on the offensive line was set, on paper, but in the NFL, nothing is set in stone. They knew depth was a necessity, so in the fifth round, they added tackle/guard Brenden Jaimes from Nebraska. Jaimes had a record 40 game start streak, so he is a sturdy player.
"A blue-collar worker who works his ass off, on and off of the field," said Jaimes on what the Chargers are getting from him. "I understand that this is a business, and I know how businesses work. Obviously, I'm coming in as a rookie, so I know my place on the team, but I also want to compete with the older guys. That's what I'm coming in to do."
He is coming in to compete, which he may be able to start next season. According to PFF, Jaimes only allowed seven sacks in his four seasons at Nebraska. If it is able to translate to the NFL, he could slide in next to Linsley at right guard. Telesco said that he sees the Nebraska product as a combo tackle and guard.
"When we went into this offseason, changing out four starters on the offensive line is kind of a big project to take on," said Telesco after the draft. "Quite frankly, I thought it may be more of a two-year project to do. It's just hard to be able to do that in one offseason, but I'm happy. I'm happy with what we have right now upfront, I'm happy with some depth. It's never perfect, but I feel pretty good about it. Now, it's like you said — let's see once we get on the field in training camp. Let's see how guys come along. This is a new offensive scheme we'll be running. All-in-all as we sit here today, I'm pretty pleased with the plan that we put together back in February. As we sit here on May 1, to kind of see it crystalize and go to where we needed to go is a good feeling."
Protecting Herbert is critical for the organization, but also Telesco said they needed offensive linemen who will open up holes for the rushing game. Last season, the Bolts were the third-worst team in the NFL with a 3.8 yards per rush.
The offensive line has gone through a significant makeover, and the organization has done a good job of bringing in offensive linemen that have veteran leadership. That is why, as of right now, the Chargers have completed their offseason goal of revamping their line. Now the question is whether they can put it together on the field.
"One of my biggest wishes in going to an NFL team was to be in a room with a lot of good veterans, and that's exactly what they have," said Slater. "I'm going to be a sponge. I'm going to be talking to those guys all of the time, picking up everything I can, as far as the playbook, experience, how to train, everything. It means a lot to be able to be around those guys."