Skill players always get the lion’s share of the recognition as the likes of Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Tyrell Williams and so on make the flashy, splash plays.
Guys in the trenches sometimes get their due, but it’s usually reserved for Pro Bowlers like Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung.
Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that one specific Charger who’s been critical to the offense’s success has flown largely under the radar.
That’s unfortunate because what Michael Schofield has done, locking down the right guard position after being forced to switch to the interior from tackle late in the offseason program, has been remarkable.
No one’s endorsement means more than Philip Rivers, which is why the strong words he said regarding the team’s right guard made major waves on Wednesday.
“Scho’s done a heck of a job,” Rivers said. “Shoot, a heck of a job. … Some of the other names that have been out there that you know of, Pouncey or Okung that have made Pro Bowls and been other places (get more recognition), and Schofield’s just kind of does his job and brings his lunch pail to work every day. Super smart player. Tough. Gritty. Physical. He’s a heck of a player, and really likes it.”
Rivers isn’t the only one to sing Schofield’s praises as Pouncey also gave him a ringing endorsement.
“Michael’s awesome, man,” Pouncey enthusiastically said. “He’s an awesome football player. Just coming here and seeing the way he works each and every day, he’s the ultimate pro. He really takes his job seriously. When he came in, this position wasn’t given to him. He earned this position. Last year he came in and played well whenever he got to play at tackle, and this offseason, he took full advantage of (the opportunity). This spot wasn’t given to Michael Schofield; he earned this spot. Everybody around this building respects the way he works.”
So, what’s been the secret to Schofield’s success so far?
“He’s one that really likes the fine details of it all and how schemes work,” Rivers explained. “I think that’s huge. I do think that the flexibility, both with our skill players and our linemen, to be able to adapt to any personnel, any call, any check, is a huge plus. I don’t think that that’s everywhere (in the league). We ask a lot of a lot of guys to be able to do that and just kind of function (like), ‘We installed it this way but we’re actually going to do it this way,’ and everybody just goes, ‘Alright.’ A lot of flexible guys, Scho being one of those, and is doing a nice job.”
While Schofield doesn’t play the game for the individual recognition, he admitted it meant a lot to hear his quarterback talk about him in such high regard.
“That’s awesome, especially a guy like that,” he said. “It means a lot. My attitude is that I just want to go out there and do my job. That’s what you’ve got to do as an (offensive) lineman. As offensive linemen, we don’t care (about attention). Whoever gets the credit, whatever. If they’re talking about him, then most likely we’re doing well if he’s doing well.”
Schofield has played tackle in recent years, and while some may think all offensive line positions require the same skillset, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are quite a few differences when it comes to playing each spot, some subtle and some overt, so it can often be a turbulent transition trying to adjust.
Luckily for Schofield, this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to playing guard.
“There was a year in Denver a few years ago where I started 16 games at right guard, so I’ve played this position before,” he explained. “I’ve done it in the NFL, so definitely as you play more and more, too, you get more comfortable. But guard is just a very different position. It’s so much more different than tackle and the guys are bigger, more powerful, and I like how quick everything happens at guard. We’re lining up a couple inches apart from each other, where at tackle, you can get a couple kicks in before you make contact. That’s how quick everything happens along the interior.”
The results speak for themselves as the Bolts have one of the league’s top rushing attacks while Philip Rivers is among the least sacked quarterbacks in the NFL.
So, even though your eyes may not be drawn to the 6-6, 301-pound Schofield once the ball is snapped, just know the 27-year-old is there in the trenches, mauling opponents and playing a key role in the Chargers’ high-powered offense.