Mike Pouncey has some of the traits you want in a center. He’s a veteran who plays vary intelligent football. He is able to pick up inside blitz, and slides to double team on athletic defensive tackles when you need him to. Looking back at 2018, on 580 pass blocking snaps, Pouncey allowed 2 sacks and 3 hits on Phillip Rivers. He doesn’t get the love like his brother in Pittsburgh, but he has also played on some bad offensive lines in Miami and with the Chargers. He makes Dan Feeney and Michael Schofield look better. As a run blocker, he does a nice job of double teaming as he is working his way to the 2nd Level.
Overall, Pouncey has been an average center for the Chargers. He does tend to get flagged as he had 8 penalties in 2018. His 2019 season was cut short, as he had neck surgery. He is under contract for $7.25 million for 2020, which seems fair, but it still remains to be seen if he will play next year. The Chargers may look to start Scott Quessenberry or move Feeney to center in 2020 and save 5 million against the Cap. If Pouncey retires due to his injury, they may look for a free agent to bring either as a starter or depth.
Forrest Lamp has largely gone unnoticed so far in his short career. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn ACL. In his 2nd year, he was active, but didn’t dress. It seemed like he wasn’t confident enough to test his knee, or it was possibly a coaching decision. This year, Lamp actually looked very good in preseason, and I honestly thought he was going to be the starter at Right Guard, and that Schofield would kick out to Tackle. Instead, it seemed like the Chargers still didn’t trust him enough, and once he was thrust into a starting position, he tore his Achilles tendon.
Lamps main scouting comes from college tape, even though he’s been in the league for 3 years. There just isn’t enough tape with only 157 total snaps. He has short arms, which lead to his transition inside to Guard. He plays low to the ground and maintains balance in both pass-blocking and run-blocking. He played extremely well as a Tackle against Alabama and LSU in college, allowing just 3 pressures. From what little tape there is of Lamp at the NFL level, he looks capable to be a quality starter in this league.
This is Lamps last year on his contract, and he will need to show something to get a new one. He is talented, and could be the starter going into 2020. From weeks 5-7, in limited action, he allowed no sacks or hits on Rivers, so there’s a silver lining. If the Chargers truly want to get better at the interior line, Lamp will need to be healthy a full season. I’m ok going into the season with Lamp as the potential starter, but the Bolts will need a quality back up. I believe they move on from Lamp next offseason.
As a 3rd Round pick in the same year Lamp was drafted, Dan Feeney has at least been available his entire career with the Chargers. In 2019, there was a camp battle for the Left Guard spot, and Feeney came away on top over Lamp. It helps having 3 full years of starting experience. He also provides the Bolts flexibility at playing either Guard position or Center if need be. He will be in a contract year, so he has a lot to play for next year.
As the teams Left Guard, Feeney hasn’t been overly impressive, but he has improved each year. In 670 passing snaps, he’s allowed 5 sacks and 8 hits with 43 total pressures. He has some games where he looks like he could be a quality starter, and some games where he is being pushed back in Rivers lap play-after-play. His worst games were Houston, Tennessee and Oakland the first time around. If there’s a spot on the interior of the line that needs upgrade, it may be his spot.
With both Feeney and Lamp becoming free agents next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bolts didn’t address upgrading Guard until next year. If they do decide to go pick up a Brandon Scherff in free agency, look for Feeney to kick in to Center. It will be interesting to see Feeney and Lamp back in a camp battle next year for the starting Left Guard spot. Both players would make for quality backups, but neither player has really earned a title as a quality starter.
A 5th Round Draft pick in 2018, Scott Quessenberry was thrusted in the starting line up after injuries to both Pouncey and Lamp. He actually filled in nicely as the teams starting center the remainder of the year. In 11 games and 396 passing snaps Quessenberry allowed 1 sack with 10 hurries and 11 pressures. Center and Guard statistics are admittedly a little deflated considering the interior of the line is harder to get pressure from. Still, for a day 3 pick in his 2nd year, you got about as much as you could hope for.
Quessenberry might have shown enough to have the team feel comfortable enough to let go of Pouncey. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the possibility exists. He isn’t overly powerful in the run game and that will be where he needs to improve this offseason. He will play both Guard and Center for flexibility and is best in a team utilizing zone run schemes. He needs to hit the weight room and get stronger.
Last on the list of Guards and Centers is Michael Schofield. A veteran who has played in the league for 5 years and won a Super Bowl ring from his time in Denver, Michael Schofield grades as the Chargers best lineman last year, especially in pass protection. In 688 passing snaps, Schofield allowed 1 sack, 11 hits, 18 hurried and 26 pressures. He graded as the 17th best Guard in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus. In Run Blocking, he graded very low. He doesn’t have the power to drive defensive tackles, nor does he really hit the target as a pulling guard.
Schofield is a free agent, and a player the Chargers might consider bringing back. At 29 years old, he has some time left in his career to be a valuable asset. Overall Schofield is an above average pass protector, and an below average run blocker who won’t demand a high salary. If the Bolts do choose to bring him back, it should be on a 1-2 year deal, but they should still look to upgrade the position as a whole. With players like Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow, the Chargers should be active in free agency.