According to U-T San Diego beat writer Michael Gehlken, “Dunlap saw every snap with the first team yesterday. To Dunlap’s right, Chad Rinehart, Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary and D.J. Fluker also worked with the ones, an arrangement that could be San Diego’s group come the Sept. 9 season opener against the Houston Texans. Or perhaps not.”
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said:
“The sooner you can declare who your starters are, the better, especially up front on the offensive line. Ideally, you wish you could say that tomorrow morning: These are the five. I can’t say that. We’re going to let that play itself out.”
San Diego’s offensive line ranked fourth worst in the NFL with 49 sacks allowed last season so McCoy’s dilemma is understandable. He wants to put the best guys out there to protect Philip Rivers.
The search for a player to solidify the LT spot for San Diego has been ongoing since Marcus McNeill suffered a career ending injury. Former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith believed that Jared Gaither was the answer after he played great in the last five games of 2011, but he missed 12 games in 2012 and was released this year.
Mike Harris started in place of Gaither for nine of the 12 games he missed last year, but Harris is currently ranked fourth on San Diego’s depth chart.
Starks has more experience at LT than Dunlap because he was the primary starter with Pittsburgh in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Dunlap’s only season as a starter was last year, but he is obviously impressing the coaching staff enough in this battle to protect Rivers’ blindside.
Dunlap and Starks have experience at right tackle as well so no matter who wins the starting job at LT, both guys add value to the team. The odd man out can back up the winner or be Fluker’s backup at RT.