Chargers' Mike Pouncey Among Top Interior O-linemen in ESPN Poll
Jason B. Hirschhorn
Mike Pouncey's worth to the Los Angeles Chargers became clear after a season-ending neck injury suffered last October left the offensive line significantly weaker for the remainder of the year. Despite multiple configurations and replacement centers, the unit simply didn't deliver the same level of performance without Pouncey's skill and leadership.
Usually, developments within the Chargers organization don't receive much attention outside of Southern California. However, the NFL noticed Pouncey's play with the team and the void left following his injury, at least according to a poll of 50 NFL personnel executives, scouts, and coaches. That poll scored Pouncey an honorable mention as one of the league's premier interior offensive linemen.
"He's been hurt recently, but I thought he was one of the highest-rated centers when he did play," one AFC executive told ESPN. Pouncey earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2018, his first season with the Chargers.
Though the Chargers have not officially cleared Pouncey for full football activity yet, head coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco have each discussed the veteran offensive lineman's progress back from the injury and expressed optimism that he will play in 2020. Pouncey has given a similar assessment in his conversations with reporters since the 2019 season ended, adding to the perception that he will suit up again.
With Pouncey presumably returning to the pivot position along the offensive line, the Chargers expect to showcase a considerably different unit this year. Left tackle Russell Okung and right guard Michael Schofield each departed via trade and free agency, respectively. Meanwhile, Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner joined the club and expect to fill out the right side of the offensive line. That leaves Dan Feeney at left guard and an open competition between several former starters and contributors for Okung's job at left tackle.
But all of that change orbits around what Pouncey can provide at center. The success of the group largely depends on his healthy return.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH