Brian Baldinger is notorious for his 'Baldy's Breakdowns' on both NFL.com and Twitter. And when it comes to evaluating players in the trenches, Baldinger remains one of the best at breaking down film.
The former offensive lineman, who is now an analyst for NFL Network, attended Sunday evening's scrimmage and offered his thoughts on the Bolts offensive line to Chargers.com.
On August 1, Baldinger published an article for NFL.com on his eight players in the trenches that were poised for a breakout year. One of the names happened to be none other than left tackle Rashawn Slater, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Baldinger expects another leap into that elite level based off the fact that Slater came in and dominated from the jump.
"I said last week that after making the Pro Bowl and starting all 17 games, he's a breakout player even in his second year," said Baldinger. "He wired up everyone from Week 1, Myles Garrett, it didn't matter who he played against … there was no apprenticeship. He just stepped in and played."
Still, Slater mentioned early in camp that he worked on angles and other technique things heading into Year 2 — things that Baldinger echoed on his own. He believes that with a season now under his belt, Slater's progression could continue.
"It's all in the details and I think that's the kind of person he is. The talent, strength and ability to drop the ankle is all there," Baldinger said.
With Slater being one of the more talented rookies last season, Baldinger also offered his thoughts on 2022 first-round pick Zion Johnson.
"He's very stout, he's very strong," Baldinger said about Johnson. "I think he's going to have power inside where he can just short set guys and get his hands on them and stone them. Anytime you can keep that pocket flatter for Justin [Herbert], whether to step up, for more time or whatever, you're that much better."
The reviews on Johnson thus far in training camp have been glowing, and Baldinger thinks one aspect of his game can help the Chargers run the ball more effectively.
"Just watching him, I think he's just got unusual power in the run game. And everybody wants to try to run the ball better inside," Baldinger said.
With two new young pieces on the offensive line, veterans Matt Feiler and Corey Linsley have been major pieces of what the Bolts have been building up front. Baldinger spoke highly about Feiler, who he calls one of the most 'off-the-radar' signings from last season, and what he offers to the offensive line.
"To see him play between Corey and Rashawn last year and how he fit in, how well he moves, he's a really good player and he's still young," Baldinger said.
"He's got position flexibility if you had to, you never know in this league, but I think he's got tremendous size inside and I think they all play really well together…they move the line of scrimmage really well," he added.
Baldinger also praised Linsley and his professionalism, but added one area that could come together with time.
"It's not so much your individual talent, but how you play together," Baldinger said. "That's where I think this thing can get better, those four guys inside thinking like one, on the same page on all the calls, the checks and all of that stuff."
The four major pieces of the offensive line will have the rest of camp to gel together, with the only remaining question at right tackle, a position that continues to grab headlines at Chargers camp.
While Baldinger did need to see how they performed against Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa during the scrimmage, he did add that regardless of the outcome, there will be a positive that comes out of this competition.
"This should make them better. The competition alone should make each of them better and it should make the line better," said Baldinger about the competition between Trey Pipkins III and Storm Norton. "They're going to give it to the guy who's best, the most consistent, fewest penalties."
As Baldinger noted, practice could be a great resource for Pipkins and Norton as they have to face some of the game's best each and every day.
"The good thing is that at that position, they're seeing two of the best in the league every single day. Every rep is important," concluded Baldinger. "You can't take any reps off and you should try to get as much work in against those guys live as you can."
Regardless of how the right tackle situation ends up playing out, the Chargers are in a good place with their offensive line. With a great mix of young and veteran talent, this season could be crucial in establishing themselves as one of the better lines in the league.
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