Projected 2013 Starting Offensive Line for San Diego Chargers
Offensive Line Finally Taking Shape
Quite easily one of the most underrated yet important areas of any football team is the offensive line. The big men in the trenches are most often mentioned when flags are thrown, but ask any skill players which guys make their success possible and the majority of them recognize the linemen as the primary facilitators.
For the San Diego Chargers, perhaps that best describes why the team floundered to their third straight mediocre record at 7-9 in 2012. The Bolts struggled to stay healthy up front with their most consistent pieces along the line now no longer with the team.
What that suggests is that this year’s collection of big fellas up front will be somewhat unrecognizable to even fans that have followed the team diligently over the past few seasons. The Bolts have undergone quite a facelift along the offensive line which began with their addition of a new line coach.
New Head Coach Mike McCoy brought in his own man in Joe D’Alessandris to run things in the trenches for 2013. His scheme will be a zone-blocking philosophy as opposed to the previous power-scheme that the team did employ. That certainly makes the turnover in personnel more understandable, but it won’t do anything for the continuity once the games begin.
There is still some uncertainty at several positions along the offensive front for the Bolts even after free agency and the NFL Draft. This team will have some serious decisions to make in training camp when it comes to the battles at several different positions.
Even though nothing is set in stone, here is a look at what the projected starting five hogmollies in the trenches will look like for the Chargers in 2013.
Left Tackle - Bryant McKinnie
This is merely a projection at this point, but all signs point to the Bolts signing the massive veteran to a deal sooner or later. Landing McKinnie would shore up what has been a revolving door at left tackle for at least one season and hopefully provide quarterback Philip Rivers with the time to have a bounce back season.
Left Guard - Chad Rinehart
Rinehart is one of the new additions to the line brought over from the Buffalo Bills along with new line coach D’Alessandris. His familiarity with the new scheme will give him a leg up on landing a starting job and should provide the rest of the team with a nice resource in their learning process.
Center - Nick Hardwick
My favorite player for the Bolts over the past near decade, Hardwick is Mr. Consistency. He has suffered through his fair share of injuries over the years, but this kid continues to prove his worth to the organization. Hardwick should have no trouble adjusting to the zone-blocking scheme and may actually thrive in it.
Right Guard - Johnnie Troutman
Here’s my surprise pick for the starting five. Troutman was a fifth round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was forced to sit out all of last year on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered prior to the draft. New General Manager Tom Telesco told U-T San Diego: “I'm excited he's here. He's definitely in the mix to play. I've told him, 'Look, you're competing for that job.' Not that I'd have to tell him that, but I wanted to make sure he knew we expected big things out of him.”
Right Tackle - D.J. Fluker
This selection may have raised some eyebrows in last month’s draft, but expect Fluker to easily beat out Jeromey Clary for the starting gig on the right side. It would surprise me if Clary actually makes it beyond the preseason on the San Diego roster given his $4 million-plus cap number both this year and next. Fluker will be a dominating run blocker and provide Ryan Mathews with one last chance to succeed in the Chargers’ backfield.