Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tackle D. J. Fluker (76) on the line of scrimmage during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama beat Michigan 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers Offensive Line Blues…

By James Fedewa

San Diego seems to be in a pinch: No left tackle

This week, the Chargers hosted free agent (and recent super bowl winner) Left Tackle Bryant McKinnie, only to watch him leave and re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens. Chargers fans have been very concerned about the vacant hole at left tackle. Depth is needed, but San Diego does not have a lot of salary to spend on a coveted or premier left tackle. Free agent addition King Dunlap is currently listed as San Diego’s left tackle starter, and is a large upgrade from last seasons left tackle problems. Most consider Dunlap a backup/swing tackle, but fans should recognize that he will me more than a swing or backup and will contribute significantly this season.

What most Chargers fans do not recognize is the biggest offseason addition to the offensive line, new O-line coach Joe Dalessandris. “Coach-D” has worked wonders the last three years in Buffalo, 2 years prior with the Chiefs, 6 years prior with Georgia Tech, and a total 36 years of coaching experience. He’s made some good players better and some undrafted guys into pro-bowlers. Notable linemen “Coach Joe-D” helped establish are Jason Peters (undrafted), Cordy Glenn (2nd round pick), Branden Albert (1st round pick), Demetrius Bell (7th round pick), Brian Waters (undrafted), Andy Levitre (2nd round pick), just to name a few…

Coach Joe-D recruited LT King Dunlap in high school and is a partial reason why Dunlap followed him to San Diego. Right Guard Chad Rinehart (from Buffalo) quickly trailed Coach Joe-D to San Diego as well, and is considering a lateral improvement (to some) of former starting RG Luis Vazquez.

Dalessandris will have his hands full in San Diego, but in a good way. The Chargers are not excessively talented upfront, but Coach Joe-D has a lot to work with, starting with the four very young fellas: D.J. Fluker, Johnnie Troutman, David Molk and Mike Harris. All will improve with Coach Joe-D’s specialized Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS – a blocking method based on footwork, technique, alternative steps and angles that can create walls vs. pockets). This new scheme will help San Diego immensely and fans can expect immediate improvement. Then again, any improvement would be huge.

Depending on health, injuries and youthful experience, the current Chargers offensive line should be a major upgrade over last season and fans will recognize the new coaching staff is the largest upgrade of all. New coaches working with the talent San Diego already possesses will be the transformation of mediocrity, into championship stages. Free agents like Bryant McKinnie would seem to be a nice addition, but not mandatory and not necessarily a good fit…

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Tags: San Diego Chargers

  • tubbs45

    Cheers to that! But I would still like to get a Starks or trade for an additional body if just for depth, but also for options!

    • Ernie Padaon

      Fo real

      • tubbs45

        I want to trust the king but the more tape I see the more fear PR will be on the IR.

        • Stefanie Smith

          That’s all it takes, tubbs. The tape speaks for itself.

          • tubbs45

            well there are a lot of rumblings about improvement with a different system, its hard to protect mobile quarterbacks, blah blah etc… I will take someone with proven ability to block over some that has proven they struggle, ALL DAY LONG!

  • tubbs45

    Fluker is gonna be so fun to watch:

    • Sergio Quintero

      Joe D might make Fluker a true star, I have seen some of his games, and there is definite room to improve.

      He needs to improve the reset after initial contact in pass protection, and he’s a little slow of the snap, if he can improve both aspects he could even play LT.

      • tubbs45

        All rookies need work and I do think JoeD is a great line mentor for the young ones.

      • jamfed

        LT in 2014 or ’15… but not right now. Lett DJ play his preferred position and see what he can do (at first)…

  • Gunnar Martin

    Great article! Very good points stated about Coach Joe D and our O-line. Anything different from last year is an improvement, so in that standard we are doing extremely well.

    • tubbs45

      Please god! My heart can’t take another season of that horribleness!

      • jamfed

        I swear my blood pressure skyrocketed after/durning games…
        it’s gut wrenching…

    • jamfed

      Thank you and agreed. We’ll all hope for better results, and a better record.

  • Louie Day Rivas

    Articles like this make me believe…
    Have faith charger fans. We’ ll b alright.

    • IrishCarBomb

      couldnt agree more, what a great and informative article

  • Ioane

    I’ve been saying this exact same in the comment section on every article posted in this site regarding our O-Line. I think we’ll be better.

  • davacho

    GREAT article- fresh and insightful. i believe. : )

    • jamfed

      Thank you… with new thought comes new execution.

  • Tom Spalsbury

    I’d rather have King Dunlap over that punk ass Raven anyway…

  • FitzWilly

    Awesome Oped
    been saying this for a while
    We are NOT grand-pa Norv;s team anymore
    M^2 has this
    new coaches, system, and players
    And I for one can’t wait :)

  • Raymundo

    Thanks for the optimism, James. In tired of all the whining that goes on here and at the “other” Bolt forums. You just made me feel at better even if it turns out to be wishful thinking. Now let’s get Starks!

    • Stefanie Smith

      Starks would do. All the “whiners” ask is get somebody that is trustworthy and talented and that will actually keep Rivers from the IR and getting himself hurt. If they can actually perform WELL at the LT position then I and the rest of the “whiners” I am sure will be all for it. No wishful thinking. Would be nice for it to materialize. As you well know, all of us fan boys and girls were so so optimistic about Gaither. And all along the writing was on the wall.

      Some of those “whiners” actually complained about Gaither! Omg, how horrible.

      • Nick in PB

        You said it Stefanie. After Gaither teased us the season before, we were all on the Gaither bandwagon and then he pulled that crap literally on the first day of practice. We should’ve called him the Tin Man… no heart!!!

    • Clay Knight

      Yeah the writers from Boltsfromtheblue were crying for days after the draft. I’m over that site.

  • arnie

    Thanks for a great article James. you stated the reasons why i’m not concerned with the LT position. There is no one thing that makes a team better. It’s a balanced combination, that improves a teams fortunes. When TT Hired mcCoy, and the HC assembled his staff, then came the FA, i moved on. it was a done deal. If the O-line can just reduce PR sacks numbers from 40 to low 30′s or high 20′s, that is a win. if they can cut his hurries and hits by a 1/3, that would improve the Chargers production immensely.

  • RZ

    GO BOLTZ!!!!!!!!!

  • Sergio Quintero

    I would still sign Starks, and have him compete for starters spot with Dunlap, competition brings the best in players.

  • Pels04

    Honestly, just having an OL that can open up some running lanes will be huge. If we can do that, then the whole offense will be better.

    • tubbs45

      Running lanes, what are those? its been so long I had to google them!!!

      • jamfed

        AGREED! it’s been 4 years, maybe 5 since I’ve seen an actual running game!

  • Sergio Quintero

    Lets not forget that Dunlap is a major improvement over Mike Harris, Dunlap is actually is pretty damn good pass blocker. He was 15th ranked pass blocking OT in the entire NFL according to Pro football focus; he just happens to be quite poor a run blocker. So clearly the chargers are going to be running a lot to the right side.

  • MC Boltman

    Yeah, I really like our new coaching staff…but D.J. Fluker & zone blocking?…*head scratch*

    • arnie

      why? they ran power and zone in bama.

      • MC Boltman

        Well, it wasn´t too hard to see that he didn´t move too well in space. But whatever we´ll see – Joe will get the job done :)

        • arnie

          Amen to that.

    • jamfed

      IMO he may be even BETTER with the ZBS. When push comes to shove, Fluker will punish LDE/LOLB’s. even if it’s one on one…

      There are so many tricks an offensive coordinator can do to make his O-line look great (especially with a blocking TE and FB). Norv played to SD weekness… and passed on all alternatives.

      • MC Boltman

        Well I see Fluker more as a power scheme guy…but whatever I do believe our new O-Line coach will get the best out of him whatever scheme they´ll be running.

  • sanford peisner

    I want you to be right, however do you really want to protect Rivers at LT with Dunlap who was a backup, Harris and a prayer?

    • Stefanie Smith

      No. But if you say no, then the fan boys call you a whiner and negative and not optimistic. I was all for Gaither with the rah rah,,, give him a chance, all he needs is an opportunity, … he is great, no one thinks so except us.. but he will be our answer for Rivers. Still waiting for Gaither to be our answer…oh yeah, that’s right… it didn’t work. This time, Dunlap will be different. Okay.

      • IrishCarBomb

        Were “fan boys” because we want to remain optimistic? Are you not a “fan boy/girl” of the team yourself? The bottom line is you are as clueless about how well he will do on our team as we are. All you have done is watched some tape where he underperformed with a different team, a different coach, a different scheme as well as a different fan base in Philly. We are NOT the professionals, T2 is one of the youngest GMs in NFL history for a reason…………he knows a ton more football than any of us combined. You seem to feel attacked by “fans” because a lot of people in this community are tired and annoyed with your incessant skepticism. Good day.

        • Anonymous

          Thank you!

        • Stefanie Smith

          Nothing wrong with being skeptical, is there? Cheers. Because we don’t blindly follow TT as if he were the head of the Hare Krishna movement, does not make us whiners either.

        • Stefanie Smith

          Sorry if calling you guys “fanboys” hurt your feelings. But your ilk does tend to get your boxers in a wad if anyone says TT even had a bad hair day. I mean Justin Bieber would be envious of fans like you guys.

          Watching tape is how coaches decide how to rank a player. It’s called fact, proof of what a player has done. If you think how a guy performed in the past is not at least some indicator how he will do in a new situation, then why have any tryouts ? It’s what builds a resume. Also, as to Gaither, he had a history. A history of red flags. We. meaning the Chargers management, and many fans, chose to ignore Gaither’s red flags. Then we acted all hurt and wounded when his “red flag” behavior came back and bit us.

          Why would you base a professional decision solely because you “hope” it works out or that you are optimistic? Shouldn’t you have something more concrete before you proceed?

      • jamfed

        I was a Gaither fan too. Still am, but his timing was terrible… There will be 100 right tackles saying the can play left tackle for the Chargers (based on paychecks alone). We’ll see what happens, yet Coach Joe-D doesn’t set the roster, Telesco does…

  • Sam Waters

    The problem is Rivers not the OL.

    • Stefanie Smith

      Are you serious?

    • Ernie Padaon


    • jamfed

      I wonder how Brady would perform behind that “o-line”… he’s be broken, same with Manning…

  • Stefanie Smith

    Hey, just for the record. You can believe that TT is a great GM as McCoy is a great coach. That does not mean that you have to accept everything they do as correct. Even the best make errors and/or mistakes. So, anytime someone disagrees with something TT does, please don’t get your boxers in a wad..Believe it or not, as we are not infallible, neither is he.

  • James P Derrick

    Maybe if Dunlap is the starting LT and he balls out the DJ at the games can drop Run DMC’s “Down With The King”…..
    Only time will tell.

  • jamfed

    Johnnie Troutman: left tackle?

  • C.Steele

    Another good article James.

  • Peter Thompson

    Good article James! Food for thought, for sure.

    OK folks, I am ALWAYS an optimistic “glass half full” guy, so not trying to be a downer here, at all. However, I will say this….

    If TT & coach Joe-D were happy with the left side “as is”, and thought McKinnie might even be CLOSE to being a bad fit.. then why fly him all the way out to San Diego, in a rush to get him out of Miami before he gets signed, wine him and dine him, and give him the “cough-cough / turn your head” treatment? I feel like the left side is improved, but I’m only “hoping” that it is adequate. An experienced tackle would only be an even BIGGER improvement, and take the pressure off of Rivers to always roll to his right while trying to throw. First off, that throw is dangerous if thrown across field… and, you get those INT’s like he threw in the Tampa Bay game. You could argue that there was no pressure on that play, which may be true.. but, it is that “perceived pressure” that has Rivers spooked. I just don’t see that going away with Dunlap as the starter. Lord knows Obviously, I’m praying that it is enough (or even much better than I thought it would be). But, you know when the last time I felt like that was? It was when Harris stepped in. I was hoping he could be coached up.. but yeah.. not so much. I understand Dunlap is more experienced, and we have better coaching.. But, TT is obviously still trying to get someone in here to fill the hole, as we saw when he brought McKinnie to town. To say that we will be “fine” is VERY optimistic to me. Which is all well and good… until it’s not… and everyone is freaking out, because nothing was done about it… and not much has been fixed since last year on the left side.