Mike Pouncey brings 'energy and nastiness' to Chargers' run game

The Chargers haven't beaten the Chiefs in eight tries, but Mike Pouncey might be the man to change that by helping implement the formula used by the Titans in the playoffs last season. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Searching for someone to add a junkyard mentality to the offensive line, Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn appears to have found his role model in free-agent acquisition center Mike Pouncey.

"He's incredible," Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung said. "His zeal and enthusiasm for the game, for our offensive line, it's amazing. I think it's going to do pretty well for us, particularly down the stretch.

"We want to be a dynamic offense, and Mike definitely makes us better. We're glad to have him. He's a Pro Bowler. He's a guy that's tasted success, and we need as many guys like that as possible."

Losers of eight straight to the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday's opponent, the Chargers' brass watched intently as the Tennessee Titans rallied from a 21-3, second-half deficit to beat their AFC West rivals 22-21 in the playoffs last season.

Specifically, the Chargers took notice of how Tennessee's offense bullied the Chiefs' defense on the way to 202 rushing yards, with 140 of those coming in the second half.

A point of emphasis for the Chargers during the offseason was creating more consistency in the running game. Even though Melvin Gordon rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, the Chargers averaged just 3.8 yard per carry, No. 26 in the NFL

Although it's only preseason, the Chargers averaged 4.4 yards per carry in exhibition play, good enough for No. 9 in the NFL.

The athletic Pouncey has made an impact because of his ability to get out in space and make blocks down the field to spring loose the Chargers' running backs.

"I love it," Pouncey said about his downfield blocking. "I feel like I'm an athlete at the second level. I like blocking guys on the second level because it gets you noticed on TV a lot more, for sure."

Gordon offered his take.

"Just how fast he gets to the second level, it helps better with the reads," Gordon said. "I'm able to read a little faster, and when guys get on guys, it makes it really easy for me to run."

While center Spencer Pulley (now with the New York Giants) did an admirable job last season for the Chargers in playing all 16 games and anchoring an offensive line that allowed a league-low 18 sacks, Pouncey is the best player quarterback Philip Rivers has had at center since Nick Hardwick retired in 2014.

"He presses the tempo," Rivers said of Pouncey. "He keeps the pace going [with] his presence. Obviously, his play is good, but his presence [when playing] at home [is key]. He brings a little bit of an energy and nastiness that is contagious. I'm excited to see how it is when we're both out there."

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said Pouncey's ability as a run-blocker allows the Bolts to be more creative in the running game. However, Pouncey also can hold his own as a pass-protector against some of the best interior pass-rushers in the NFL.

"He has good strength in the pocket too and good technique," Whisenhunt said. "That's something that is important, because a lot of times you get a guy that has really good mobility [but] he can't hold up to the big nose [tackle] or the big 3-technique that is slanting into him. Mike has done a good job with that. We're very fortunate to have him."

One area Pouncey said he wants the Chargers to dominate is in the fourth quarter, developing an ability to close out games by running the football.

"When you've got an offensive line that finishes strong at the end of games, teams watch that on film," Pouncey said. "Coaches know how offensive lines are, and you're judged on how strong an offensive line is by how they play in the fourth quarter.

"It's been an objective of ours since the offseason started to be one of the top offensive lines in the league, and we hope to accomplish that this year."