When the San Diego Chargers signed Max Starks back in May, many assumed he would be the natural fit to start at left tackle and protect Philip Rivers’ blindside. The Chargers had recently released one of the biggest free agent busts in history in Jared Gaither and were looking for stability at one of football’s most important positions. Now, after losing out on the starting spot, Starks is just competing for a roster spot.
When he was signed, Starks appeared to be just what the Chargers were looking for. The 31-year-old, nine-year veteran had appeared in 123 career games, starting 96 of them with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throughout his career, Starks had been quite average, but was very reliable and durable, two traits the Chargers have lacked at left tackle since Marcus McNeill in his prime. Average was all the Chargers really were looking for, and that would still be a huge step up from last season’s left tackle situation.
Starks and King Dunlap were expected to get an equal opportunity to compete for the starting left tackle position. However, Dunlap, who signed earlier than Starks, never relinquished the starting spot and has been solid throughout preseason. Meanwhile, in the one start Starks was given in preseason, he allowed a sack-fumble of Rivers.
Now, after losing the starting job to Dunlap, Starks is competing for the swing tackle position with last season’s left tackle Mike Harris, and could even be behind him for that spot. When Dunlap went out for a brief moment with a minor injury in Saturday’s preseason game, Harris was the one who came in for him. When Dunlap was held out of practice on Monday, again it was Harris who took his spot.
Harris looks much better this offseason after an awful campaign at left tackle last season when he was thrust into the lineup as an overwhelmed, undrafted rookie. Harris was a right tackle in college and gained left tackle experience last season, making him a good candidate to be the primary backup for both positions. Harris, 24, is also younger and has more upside than Starks, who is past his prime.
It’s a shame that Starks wasn’t what the Chargers thought they were getting when they signed him. At least they know now rather than during the season so that they can plan their final roster accordingly. Starks will really need to showcase something in this last week before final cuts if he hopes to make the roster. But things aren’t looking too good for him right now.