The San Diego Chargers signed left tackle King Dunlap early in free agency this offseason to help shore up a position of weakness. Many fans were skeptical about his ability to hold down quarterback Philip Rivers’ blindside, and it seems management shared those concerns as they chased numerous veteran options before also inking Max Starks to a deal in May. The war these two are waging in training camp thus far has been one of epic proportions by all accounts.
Surprisingly, the majority of first-team reps up until Monday morning were going to the unheralded Dunlap over the veteran Starks. That changed when a minor injury saw Dunlap limp off the field opening the door for Starks to work with the ones. He manned the left tackle spot during the morning session with the first-team for just the second time in camp with the other coming when Dunlap moved to the right side in place of a gassed D.J. Fluker on Saturday.
Although the competition still seems wide open, Dunlap’s ability to man the left side successfully has kept Starks in a second-team role for the bulk of camp thus far. Head coach Mike McCoy commented on Dunlap telling U-T San Diego:
“He’s done a nice job. He understands the situation; I think they all do. We’re trying to find the best five guys together. We’re going to continue rolling the line throughout camp, even in the preseason we’ll mix them with changes here and there.”
The fact that Dunlap offers versatility to move over the right side if necessary gives him added value to the San Diego roster. He may not have been lauded for his play with the Philadelphia Eagles, but the massive 6-foot-9 330-pounder was solid last season. He wasn’t the big-name prize most fans of the Bolts were hoping for in the offseason, but he certainly isn’t a glorified reserve posing as a starter either.
Starks will still have plenty of opportunities to stake his claim to the starting left tackle role as camp and the preseason progress. With McCoy’s inclination to mix and match the line throughout camp as well as the preseason, everything appears to be fluid along the Bolts’ line.
That is a welcome change for the entire offense after the 49-sack debacle that was last season. Rivers will hopefully be able to get more comfortable in the pocket this season while Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead will find more running room in the ground game. Don’t expect a quick decision on the starting left tackle with the Bolts. This battle deserves to play itself out, and may the best man win.