Corey Linsley's unique approach has bolstered Los Angeles Chargers' offensive line

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers center Corey Linsley is among the best in the game at his position. He just does things a little differently.

Watch him. He runs out to the huddle and then turns around, his back facing his quarterback.

"No, he's not lost," said safety Derwin James Jr. "He's already looking at how the defense is stacking up."

The approach makes sense in this quick-to-huddle and quicker-to-snap league. Any edge you can get can pay off, and Linsley says it has. He is one of the few centers in the league, if not the only one, to do things backwards. It started during the seven seasons he spent with the Green Bay Packers before signing with the Chargers this offseason as their big-money free agent signing.

"There were times where I would break the huddle and turn around and it would be different personnel," he said. "It was like, 'Why don't I just turn around and look and see what the personnel [is right away].'"

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was immediately on board with Linsley's approach.

"He can hear what (quarterback) Justin [Herbert] is saying, but what is more important is what grouping is coming out," Staley said. "Who is over there? Is (Cleveland Browns defensive end) Myles Garrett in the game, or is he out of the game? Is (Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle) Chris Jones in the game or is he out of the game? Are they in nickel? Are they in penny? Are they in base? That’s what he's looking for. That's why he is the general."

Some say Linsley is the reason the Chargers offensive line has made such a dramatic improvement this season. The Chargers' pass block win rate has increased from 47% in 2020 (31st in the NFL) to 59% in 2021 (17th) and their run block win rate has improved from 67% last season (32nd) to 69% in 2021 (22nd). Because of this, Linsley has arguably been the offensive MVP for the 7-5 Chargers, who host the New York Giants on Sunday at SoFi Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Linsley, a fifth-round draft choice from Ohio State in 2014, signed a five-year, $62.5 million deal this offseason with the Chargers, who went after him with a certain desperation. He was chosen the Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate for his work with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), which pairs trained volunteers with children who need help. He and his wife, Anna, became involved with the organization in Green Bay and have now taken their fight to Southern California.

"He's the kind of guy we want here," Staley said, and not just because his 308-pound size, although that helps.

Linsley has been on the field for every snap this year, has not had a missed snap exchange with Herbert and only has one false start in 12 games. He certainly has been a stabilizing factor, creating great chemistry with the second-year quarterback.

Linsley says Herbert does a great job of speaking loudly enough in the huddle for Linsley to hear, even with his back turned.

"It's never been that loud," Linsley says of the outside noise. "Even if it is, I can lean back in the huddle. It only takes a second to tell because once we bring on our personnel, they switch fairly quickly because they want to get their guys on the field."

"I'd like to think it pays off every week," Linsley said of his approach. "We might have a new tight end or new fullback in the game that needs to know what to be alert for with the defensive personnel. I like to think it makes a little bit of difference in those areas. I know it does for us and it does for me from an ID perspective."

Linsley's huddle method does draw some odd looks from what he hopes are confused defenders.

"Yeah, there have been a few guys that (have asked about it) and I told them after the game or something and they are like, 'Ah, that’s pretty cool.'" Linsley said. "... It's just something that I feel has given me a little bit of an edge, so I kept doing it."

A new trend, perhaps?