Sports Out West

Chargers offensive line looking to improve

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders

SAN DIEGO – Within the past two years, the San Diego Chargers offensive line has undergone quite the transformation. 

Last season the Chargers used seven different starting offensive line combinations, which included playing five different players at left tackle. Despite the changes, the unit allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (30) in the league and ranked in the top five. 

Compare that to 2012 where the offensive line allowed 49 sacks and ranked nearly last at 29th overall. 

The offensive line was arguably the biggest improvement on the team last year, which helped Ryan Mathews rush a career-high 1,255 yards, and Philip Rivers earn Comeback Player of the Year. An integral part of the team’s success was from offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, who received much-deserved credit and praise in shaping the linemen’s versatility. 

“It really is a testament to our coaching staff and to Joe D in particular,” stated the 10th-year veteran Nick Hardwick. “The thing about offensive line is you can always count on somebody going down. You rarely go through a season where a guy makes it all 16 games or the entire unit makes it all 16 games.”

“Everybody has to be instructed and drilled in the exact same manner. When there’s a call made, everyone is on the same page doing the exact same thing – using the correct footwork, using the correct technique, and executing their assignment,” he added. 

Joe D is continuing his line of work and preparation throughout training camp. Last week, D.J. Fluker and Chris Watt played left guard and left tackle, while King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart played right guard and right tackle. 

For Fluker, playing on the left side isn’t his first rodeo. Last season, the rookie swung over in the left tackle position for three games. But the second-year player admits there’s still a learning curve switching to the other side. 

“The only hard part about that is flipping every play inside your head. The first (practice) day I played left tackle, it was a little bit hard. But the second day, I got after it and was more confident with it,” shared Fluker. 

The only player who remains the same position-wise is Hardwick at center. 

“The only one who’s not flexible is me. I can’t play another position,” Hardwick expressed. “So everybody (else) has to be able to move side-to-side. You never know what’s going to happen in a game and you have to be able to adjust.” 

Besides versatility, the offensive line is also looking forward to creating lanes for the “three-headed monster” in Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown

“I honestly can’t wait. I can’t wait to unleash the little dragons out there,” said Fluker with a big smile across his face.  

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images.  

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Laramee Bishop

Laramee Bishop is a sports journalist hailing from San Diego. She currently works as a producer and editor at NFL Network in Los Angeles. Her previous line of work includes: U-T San Diego, U-T TV, Quiksilver, and TransWorld Media.