Chargers Off-Season Checklist: Interior Design
The LA Chargers landed another bodyguard for Justin Herbert in the first round with Boston College OL Zion Johnson, their second straight NFL draft. Considering the names that were still on the board at pick seventeen, as well as the position value available in later rounds, Johnson’s selection came as a surprise personally.
Head Coach Brandon Staley gave some insight during his recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. When asked about the decision to select Zion Johnson “in the middle of a first-round palooza wide receiver,” here is his substantive response:
“We felt like Zion Johnson would really round out our offensive line and be able to really solidify the inside and the quarterback position. The pressure that affects you the most is the pressure in the middle, and when you have to anchor yourself. against the Aaron Donalds of the world, the, you know, the Chris Jones of the world, the Deforest Buckners, you know that’s a great duty You can help on an edge rusher much easier than you can help on a inside rusher, so we felt like Zion was a complete guard, complete in the running game and in the passing game.”
– HC Chargers Brandon Staley
Staley began by acknowledging Rashawn Slater’s 2021 Pro Bowl rookie season. The feeling around Johnson’s arrival is that he will not only find himself in an environment that responds to his strengths (similar to Slater), but also with an organization that thinks he can be one of their main building blocks. base against opposing defenses for years to come.
If Telesco’s point of view comes to fruition, come to week 1, the right side of the offensive line looks like Johnson at guard and Trey Pipkins at tackle. Spending first-round capital on an inside lineman suggests the rookie will earn a lot of snaps.
According to PFF data, Michael Schofield III recorded 75.1% of the Bolts’ snaps at RG. He was one of 33 guards in the NFL to score more than 600 pass-blocking snaps during the regular season. Among them, he had the seventh highest pass blocking rating (75.2). However, his 59.5 run blocking rating put him 42 out of 53 guards with at least 300 opportunities.
Staley’s final remark rings true with Schofield’s splits; a balance in run/pass blocking is something Zion Johnson will ideally provide this coming season.
It shouldn’t be hard to upgrade run blocking, but mirroring the solid level of pass protection that Schofield (now a free agent) has displayed is no small feat. Last season’s data briefing highlighted just how underappreciated he was to solidify RG’s position, regardless of his responsibility as a neighbor in the trenches.
According to PFF, there were 32 QBs with over 100 pressure returns in 2021. At 37.2%, Justin Herbert had the highest rate in the league where RT shared “some responsibility” for pressure allowed.
Could it be that, in the eyes of the organization, Schofield’s success has been inflated and that RT doesn’t deserve 37.2% of the blame? Or that Zion Johnson can be on his toes, while simultaneously helping true accountability (RT) on the right side?
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Expect to see some reshuffling on the offensive line. But no matter how the cards play out, be sure to list Johnson as a key inside role.