Most games are won in the trenches, and that always starts up front with the Offensive Line. They are the ones who set the tone. In the Chargers upcoming battle in Foxborough, they need their offensive line to bounce back for a chance at a strong offensive performance. For the Patriots, if they want any offensive production with second-string quarterback, Bailey Zappe, the Offensive Line is going to need to play well.
Rashawn Slater and Trey Pipkins
The first set of offensive linemen are the offensive tackles. The Chargers boast one of the best left tackles in the entire league in former first-round selection, Rashawn Slater. Slater is coming off a brutal Bicep injury and has not looked exactly the same as he did before. Though, has still been a very good tackle this year. He has had his struggles in the run game more than expected, but is still a very strong pass blocker, recording a 72.7 grade across the entire season, only giving up one sack.
At right tackle, Trey Pipkins has been very underwhelming for the Chargers. The same he has been in every single season with the team except his contract year. He played well last season and was awarded to a three-year extension. That has not been a good deal for the Chargers as the 27-year-old has been average at best. Pipkins has a 60.6 offensive grade and has given up eight sacks. This would rank him first amongst all offensive tackles with at least 50% of their teams’ respective snaps. Unfortunately, the Chargers have no depth to look toward in hopes of a change.
Conor McDermott and Mike Onwenu
Now onto the Patriots, their current starting left tackle is Conor McDermott, a former sixth-round selection in 2017. The 31-year-old veteran had to come in and play in a hurry. With the many injuries hitting the Patriots offensive line quick, he has done a very admirable job in his three games starting. A 71.9 offensive grade on 143 snaps is a good showing on a small sample size. McDermott will have his hands full with Khalil Mack this week.
New England’s current starting right tackle is Mike Onwenu, who had to play some right guard early in the season. Now at right tackle, he has played immensely better, earning an 80+ PFF grade in the last three games. If Onwenu continues this current tear he is on, he might earn himself a Pro Bowl selection. The versatile offensive lineman has played himself from late day three selection to a very good starter amongst this offensive line.
The Patriots tandem consists of two very solid tackles. They have either played little snaps, or other positions during the course of the season. The Bolts have one of the best tackles in the league protecting Justin Herbert’s blindside but have a very average best tackle protecting the other side. This comparison would depend on who you ask. Though, analytics would lean towards the Patriots, as Onwenu and McDermott have not let up a sack in the last three weeks.
Interior Offensive Line
Zion Johnson, Will Clapp and Jamaree Salyer
Moving onto the interior offensive line, the Chargers possess two second-year players, and a center with a first-team all-pro-worthy name. Starting off with Zion Johnson, the former first-round selection was beloved by Charger fans as he was a good person to root for and a very polished versatile lineman from Boston College. Unfortunately for Johnson, he has not been exactly as advertised, as he struggles in pass protection and picking up stunts. Johnson has given up four sacks on the year, which would be tied for third in the league amongst guards. Johnson has moments of dominance but has been average at best this year.
Jamaree Salyer the Chargers’ sixth-round selection in 2022 had a very strong year at offensive tackle last season but was tasked with moving inside to guard this year. He has been average this season as well and has also struggled with the same things that Johnson has. Salyer has given up five sacks on the year, which would place him second among all guards.
Rounding off with Chargers backup center, Will Clapp. Clapp had to step into the lineup after Corey Linsley’s newly found heart condition. Under not-so-great circumstances, Clapp has definitely given below-average center play, recording a 50.5 offensive grade this season. Though not performing immensely well, Clapp still deserves some flowers due to his position of being thrown into the lineup.
Cole Strange, David Andrews and Sidy Sow
Moving onto the Patriots side of things, New England boasts former strange first-round selection, Cole Strange. The Chattanooga product quickly proved doubters wrong and had a very solid rookie season. This year Strange has played pretty well considering he is amidst an offensive line full of shuffles combined with a bad rotating quarterback situation. Strange is coming off a very good two-game stretch against the Colts and Giants. He looks to continue this on Sunday against the bolts.
On the other side of the interior offensive line lies fourth-round rookie, Sidy Sow. Sow had a very rough Week One, recording a 28.8 PFF grade. He came back into the lineup in Week Six against the Raiders and has kept the job since. Since his takeover in Week Six, Sow has had multiple very good performances, highlighted by an 86.4 PFF grade in Week Seven against Buffalo. Sow also had one of his best-graded games last week against the New York Giants recording an 82.6 PFF grade, even though he gave up a sack.
The Patriots starting Center is David Andrews, who has been a stalwart Center since 2015. Andrews is one of the league’s most underrated linemen, even though he has played Center for the legendary Tom Brady. Andrews has graded out very well this season with an impressive 77.7 grade, even though he has struggled a bit in pass protection with four sacks given up.
The Patriots easily win this matchup, as their interior offensive line consists of two young rising players, and one veteran who has been one of the best at his position for nearly a decade. With an offensive line that has been shuffling the entire year, New England might have found their combination late in the season. The Chargers will put that to the test with their dominant pass rush, whilst looking at their own offensive line hoping they hold up against a Bill Belichick-led defense.
Main Photo Credit: USA Today Network