Through the first five games of 2022, the Chargers have endured some ups and downs in almost every aspect of their season.
There has been strong play for long stretches, and bumpy times at other points, but the general feeling is that the Bolts are headed in the right direction entering Week 6.
No unit might sum up the rollercoaster first five games of the season that the offensive line, which withstood injuries and inconsistent play to produce its best outing in Sunday's road win against the Browns.
"It's just been a team effort. It starts with that premise, that it takes a team effort to play like that," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "It's not just the O-line, it's their coaches, it's the skill players around them, it's the protection plan, it's the run game plan.
"Things take time, and I think that for us, up front, early in the season, it's just taken some time for those guys to play together, to get into rhythm together, but I think that you've seen, over the last couple of weeks, us play really quality football on the road," Staley added. "That's also a factor, when you have a group that can go on the road and play like that. We're excited. We have to keep improving."
The Bolts put up 465 yards of total offense in Cleveland, a figure that was highlighted by 238 yards on the ground. It was an outstanding performance, especially considering the Chargers had rushed for just 258 yards through the first four games of the season.
The Chargers started, from left to right, Jamaree Salyer, Matt Fieler, Corey Linsley, Zion Johnson and Trey Pipkins III in that game.
Fittingly enough, that unit received a game ball from Staley after the win.
Here's a look at how each player has fared this season:
Salyer was thrust into the starting lineup in Week 5 after Rashawn Slater went down with a long-term biceps injury.
The 2022 sixth-round pick has held his own against solid competition, as he hasn't allowed a sack in 141 snaps at that spot.
Staley praised the rookie for stepping up against Cleveland's pair of elite edge rushers in Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett.
"He was outstanding. Those two guys are really tough to block. Jadeveon came to play yesterday. When he's on like that, he's a really tough guy to block," Staley said. "I think that Jamaree spent most of his time with Myles. As you guys know, Myles is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, one of the top players in the game. It was a really strong performance by Jamaree.
"He is going to learn a lot from it. It was his first time playing against a guy of that caliber, that has that type of size, speed, power and play-making ability. It was a good barometer, I think, for him to see where he needs to go," Staley added. "I think that the way that we played around him yesterday, the way we called the game, really allowed Jamaree to get his feet in the grass and play well. Our entire line came to play yesterday."
So far, Salyer had filled in admirably for Slater, who earned All-Pro honors as a rookie in 2021.
"The other good thing for Jamaree is that he also has another coach, Rashawn, who is helping him out, too," Staley said. "What we try to do with guys like him, that are new to the NFL, is use everyone's experience to help them out."
The veteran guard wasn't at his best in the first month of the season, as he particularly struggled in Week 2-4. Perhaps that has to do with him getting used to playing with Salyer, and also having center Corey Linsley miss six quarters of action.
But Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi displayed confidence in Feiler before Week 5.
"I think he's going to be just fine," Lombardi said.
Sure enough, Feieler had his strongest game of the season against Cleveland. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Feiler posted season bests in his overall grade (67.1) and pass-blocking grade (71.4).
"It was probably Matt Feiler's best game of the season," Staley said.
If Feiler can continue to trend in the right direction, that should only bode well for the Bolts up front.
Simply put, Linsley remains among the league's best players at his position.
And the Bolts entire offense — not just the offensive line — is better when he's in the lineup.
Linsley missed the second half of Week 2 against the Chiefs and then all of Week 3 against the Jaguars, as the Bolts coincidentally lost both of those games.
Yet Linsley's presence has surely helped the Chargers secure back-to-back road wins. He helps Justin Herbert before the snap, is the anchor up front and is one of the most important players on the entire roster.
And at age 31, he also currently leads all NFL centers with a pass-blocking grade of 84.4, according to PFF.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Before Salyer stepped into the lineup, Johnson was the only starting rookie up front.
The 2022 first-round pick has been solid at right guard, providing above-average play at his position.
According to PFF, if you count the 44 guards who have played at least 290 snaps this year, Johnson ranks 19thwith a pass-blocking grade of 62.7.
Johnson's teammates and coaches have praised him from the moment he joined the team, and his play as a rookie has been impressive so far.
"Zion has come in and filled the role where we knew we had a gap in our offense," said running back Austin Ekeler. "We didn't have a right guard, so we came out and drafted one.
"Now, we have Zion coming in here and he's been killing it," Ekeler added. "He's been solid in pass, run, all of it."
Trey Pipkins III
Pipkins won the starting job in training camp and the preseason, and hasn't looked back since.
He's been steady on the right side over 310 total snaps, hasn't allowed a sack and has given up just one quarterback hit through five games.
Pipkins suffered an MCL sprain in the win over Cleveland, but missed only five snaps before returning.
"He showed a lot of toughness in that game. When I went out there, to the field, I didn't seem good," Staley said. "For him to go off, and then be able to come back on and play the way he did in that game, it just says so much about him.
"For you guys that have covered him for several years, just the progress that he's made as a competitor and just showing his stuff yesterday," Staley added. "Just an awesome performance by him. We're fortunate to get him out of that game."
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