Head Coach Anthony Lynn vowed that all three interior positions would be up for grabs this offseason. While Matt Slauson was a stalwart at center in 2016, Lynn said it’s entirely possible the best combination would result in the veteran kicking back to his traditional guard position.
Thus far, Philip Rivers has been impressed with the results on the left side of the line with Slauson next to new tackle Russell Okung.
“(Okung) and Slauson there together on that left side have been fun to watch in practice,” the quarterback said as his eyes lit up. “I think those two can cause some problems for a defense. They both really seem to already work well together. You’ve heard me say I think more than quarterback (and) receiver getting on the same page, it’s those linemen (that’s more important). So, in the short time that Slauson has been back at left guard and Russell’s been here (it’s been awesome). They communicate all the time. They enjoy that part of it. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Whether or not the pair remains on the left side of the line when the season kicks off remains to be seen, but it comes as no surprise that the duo has impressed.
Okung made his mark on the Bolts from the moment he arrived in March. A former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, he established himself as a dominant tackle his rookie year after the Seattle Seahawks selected him in the first round (sixth overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft. He allowed the second fewest sacks (20) in the NFL among linemen with at least 70 starts during his tenure in Seattle before spending the 2016 campaign in Denver.
“Russell’s been awesome,” Rivers added. “He’s been what you expect. I didn’t know him, but I’ve known of him (from) his time in Seattle and last year in Denver. He’s a true pro.”
Meanwhile, Slauson joined the Bolts in 2016 and emerged immediately as a tough, no-nonsense presence in the trenches. He also became an invaluable leader, mentoring young players such as Spencer Pulley, Max Tuerk, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. Adding someone of Okung’s ilk will only cement the type of offensive line he’s hoping to help establish in 2017.
“It’s been great working with him,” Slauson said. “Russell is an incredible professional. He is very calculated in everything he does. He’s learning the offense extremely fast, and part of the process for us this spring is learning how to work together. I may have to change certain things to fit him, and he may have to change certain things he’s used to doing for me. We are finding out we will play together as one, and I’ve been really impressed with him as a player. But also, I’m really impressed with him as a pro.”
Okung feels the same way about Slauson.
“Matt’s a true professional. The guy has been a good player for years in this league, and really understands the game. He also pushes me. He’s been pushing me to get my feet right and my hands right. To be a technician. Matt is definitely a special player and I can’t wait to see how he does this year. Building the bond with the guy next to you is very important. There is a trust factor there that goes miles. Whether it is on certain defensive line stunts (or) to just trust each other in our combinations, it’s huge. It makes us feel comfortable.”