Can Jordan McFadden Fix The Los Angeles Chargers 2024 Offensive Line Woes?

Can Jordan McFadden be the bandage for the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line?

Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted at 156th in the fifth round, Jordan McFadden played a handful of snaps in 2023, sometimes at left tackle and sometimes at guard for the Los Angeles Chargers. He started two games at left guard when Zion Johnson was out with an injury.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh noted his versatility, athleticism, and intangibles during the NFL Owners meeting last Monday, where he said that McFadden could be a center for the team.

According to Daniel Popper of The Athletic, when McFadden was drafted, having him play at center was “part of the long-term plan.” McFadden brings that extra depth to an offensive line that’s often run thin. Below we’ll look at what he brings to the team and where some of those intangibles show up. 

What Did McFadden Do in 2023? 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers, Jordan McFadden: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

McFadden mostly played special teams before getting two starts with the Chargers in Weeks 17 and 18 and his best game was against the Broncos in Week 17. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he had an overall pass-blocking grade during that matchup of 83.8 and a run-blocking grade of 61.4.  He allowed no sacks, hits, hurries, or pressures on backup quarterback Easton Stick.

In his NFL draft profile Lance Zierlein said McFadden is “firm and accurate into blocks using good footwork to drive and turn opponents.” In watching the All-22 footage, it’s clear how good he is at sticking to his blocks, creating an unforgiving wall that’s able to absorb the pushback of his opponents. 

McFadden’s not the most mobile, as he has some inconsistency pivoting after the initial block. There was an instance in the Broncos matchup where he was firmly blocking defensive lineman Mike Purcell at the start of the play, and by the end, Purcell had gotten away and wrapped up Austin Ekeler.  Heading into the draft it was said that he, “lacks ideal mass and will get dumped by twitchy run defenders at times.”

This comes to light more in his second start against the Chiefs, where he earned a 49.5 in run-blocking and a 31.6 in pass-blocking, and was responsible for one sack, two hits, two hurries, and five pressures. During that game, defensive lineman Chris Jones eludes him on a few occasions, and in one play when he beats McFadden, Stick has to run toward the slide line to avoid the pressure and advance. But even when Jones manages to get pressure on Stick, McFadden is still holding onto Jones’ arm, causing Jones to fall. There’s a similar moment where McFadden grabs hold of Jones long enough to give Stick time to complete a pass to wide receiver Quentin Johnston.

For what McFadden lacks in mobility, he makes up for in follow-through and physicality. Jones is one of the best and to go toe to toe shows grit, especially as a rookie. 

Can McFadden Be the Los Angeles Chargers Solution? 

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Line: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimately McFadden can be that person to help this line, but it depends on where he’s placed. The Chargers need more depth at the tackle and guard positions, and considering all of the offensive linemen struggles, I think McFadden would be a welcome replacement for any one of them, with the exception of left tackle Rashawn Slater.

But in terms of center, I don’t think that’s where he should be, even in a backup capacity.  He’s too raw and doesn’t yet have that consistent mobility along with the quick reaction and speed that’s needed to be really good at the position. Unless that’s developed more during camp, he should stick to guard or tackle.

He could be a difference maker, possibly even a starter, depending on how Johnson, right guard Jamaree Salyer, and right tackle Trey Pipkins fare this year. I’d much rather another center be drafted or acquired through free agency than McFadden tasked with that role. Because anything can happen, and you really need someone with a lot of experience in that position, even in a backup capacity.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers Logo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports