May 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tackle D.j. Fluker (76) stretches during Chargers rookie minicamp at Chargers park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

New Tackles, New Guards, New Backs.. Zone Blocking?


May 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tackle D.j. Fluker (76) and guard Johnnie Troutman (63) during Chargers rookie minicamp at Chargers park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When we hired Joe D’Alessandris away from the Buffalo Bills, most people were predicting that The San Diego Chargers would be moving to a “zone blocking scheme”. As we all know, this scheme focuses on having a smaller, more athletic offensive line. With the first pick of the draft, Tom Telesco drafted “Mount Fluker” to hold down the right side of the line. This prompted the Bolts to move our ex right tackle Jeromey Clary (who is also a very big boy) to the right guard position. Initially, there was an expectation of our run game being pulled to the right. King Dunlap was to be the starting left tackle, and is not very dominant, when it comes to the run game. After signing Max Starks to the left tackle position, there seems to be a little bit more hope that we can run left, as well. If the season started today, I believe that Chad Rinehart would be the starter at left guard, until Johnnie Troutman can prove himself, and possibly take over a guard position at a later date. For the time being, he will probably be used to rotate in, and get some much needed NFL experience. The left guard position seems to be the most “up-for-grabs” position on this unit. Dunlap, Ohrnberger, Troutman, and Rinehart will all compete for that spot, and could potentially be the starter.

I have been thinking about what this would mean for the zone blocking scheme that we were all expecting to see. Before the draft, and recent weeks of free agency, we were looking at King Dunlap being the only plus sized player on the line, except for Clary. Now we could possibly have the Twin Towers of Fluker & Starks on the bookends, Clary &.. “my conspiracy theory” pick.. King Dunlap at the guard positions (who has experience playing both guard positions). Nick Hardwick would be the smallest player on the line at 6′ 4″. Wow… that is a lot of beef up front!!!! Could we still run a zone blocking scheme with those guys? It seems like that would be more suited to a power blocking scheme, to me.

Of course, there are still a lot of variables out there. Clary could be cut after June 1st to make more cap space, and be replaced with a more athletic free agent guard like Brandon Moore.. or, simply lose out to another guard on the roster (which I would doubt, if he stays). The left guard position could be held by Reinhart, who was used in coach Joe D’s zone-blocking scheme in Buffalo. But, if we end up with (from right to left) Fluker, Clary, Hardwick, Reinhart, Starks… is that line even close to athletic enough to play a zone-blocking scheme? Furthermore, (even though coach Joe D’ is a great o-line coach, regardless), what was the point of bringing in a zone-blocking expert, if we were planning on signing all of these huge “not-so-athletic” players?

Perhaps there are still more changes to come, and it is too early to tell. What do you all think of the way the o-line is playing out? Which scheme do you think we will end up running.. zone, power, or a combination of both? Can the players we have on the roster now plug into a zone scheme? Would Philip be able to see over the line if Dunlap secures the left guard position? Are you more comfortable with the run game, now that we have added more starting caliber players to the line? Please post your thoughts in the comment section below.

Happy “Memorial Day Weekend” Friday, and Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!


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Tags: Chad Reinhart D.J. Fluker Jermomey Clary Johnnie Troutman King Dunlap Max Straks Nick Hardwick Rich Ohrnberger San Diego Chargers

  • tubbs45

    Power blocking seems to be in our immediate future for the run and short pass. Though JoeD probably has the teaching tools to go where ever he want us to go! #BoltUP #YouGotWizzedOnByJoeD

    • tubbs45

      Great thoughts PT, been contemplating the same scenarios… Good Friday to you my man!

      • Peter Thompson

        Thanks, TB45! I will be partying down this weekend! Much needed ; )

  • Ioane

    Power zone baby, joe-D is a mad scientist. Either way, our OL will it hard for defenses to get through and around. With McCoy and Whiz, expect the running game to explode on the field.

    • OP Bolt

      I like this description. In the end, football is a game of physical and mental domination. If we can cut the sacks in half, and we improve running, passing and defense, we should OWN the fourth quarter where these man-mountains bitch-slap the defense. No more of Norv’s fourth quarter meltdowns.

      • Peter Thompson

        I would even say that it was the 3rd quarters that hurt us the most. So many games last year, where the offense (and the team in general) went into the locker room with some real fire! Only to come out flat, and not even score a single point in the 3rd quarter. Bunches of 3 & outs for our offense! Then, the other teams would have those long sustained drives, and wear down our defense. They were usually gassed before the 4th quarter was even played!!! So frustrating, but I’m glad we have (hopefully) made upgrades across the board with the players & personel.

        Furthermore, I hope that the clock management gets a heck of a lot better. Remember Norv running the ball IN BOUNDS 3 times w/ a minute and a half to go? Then taking a knee before halftime, when we may have been able to put something together? Even when they did try to put it together, they had problems getting the plays off. UNACCEPTABLE!

        • NativeSanDiegan

          Pissed me off. That’s not Chargers Football. They stopped showing Chargers games here in Hawaii, and I didn’t care. They just pissed me off. Stupid draft choices, especially in 1st round, not playing right players, and what you said.

          • Peter Thompson

            Nice! A Hawaii fan. Are there a bunch more Charger fans out there, now that we signed Te’O, or were there already a ton?

          • NativeSanDiegan

            There are a ton of UH football fanatics. Chargers are the most popular pro team by far. Next are the Traiders, but only about 10%. There are a lot of guys from SD living here; they see Hawaii as SD in the Summer all yr long. They support Chargers, but not big fans.
            Most in Hawaii, especially on the News, follow guys from Hawaii with a passion. Although Junior was from Oceanside, he was Samoan. There are a ton of Samoans here so he was revered. Since then Chargers are most highly supported team
            With Teo, referred to as a “local boy” , he can do no wrong and will be revered once Training Camp starts. His fake girlfriend is totally ignored as if it never happened. They will report any little thing he does well. If he makes one tackle in a preseason game it will be shown on the News. So yes, there will be a ton of support and hopefully every game will be televised. The reason my moniker is ” NativeSanDiegan” is because I live here now but lived in San Diego the first 31 years of my life. I even attended games at Balboa Stadium and have some great memories from there. Aloha, Paul

  • RussinSactown

    Denver had a system where no matter who ran the ball they racked up huge numbers. Maybe this is the direction we are headed. We should be able to wear defenses down with this line as it sits now.

    • Peter Thompson

      I think you are 100% right on this.

  • Sergio Quintero

    Hybrid system, but mostly power running, have to play the cards you’re dealt and this bunch is not a zone scheme line.

    I just can’t see the chargers living off the zone stretch pull with these 5, only Rinehard & Hardwick fit that scheme.

    • Peter Thompson


  • Ernie Padaon

    Had questioned the idea of zone blocking from the start… But the way the line is built now, it definitely makes no sense to go zone blocking

    • Peter Thompson

      It would be like having Hippos dance ballet.. lmao!!!

      • NativeSanDiegan

        Yea, but they do on Disney. Fantasia and I think in Dumbo (when he’s drunk as a skunk, or as an elephant). Woah now. I even remember my kids watching “Arthur” and a hippo bully-type named “Binky” danced ballet. Hahaha

        • Peter Thompson

          Hahaha.. that picture is actually from Fantasia.. nice call!

  • Sergio Quintero

    You beat to the punch Pete, was working on a similar story, just don’t the zone scheme with this bunch.

    • Peter Thompson

      Doh… sorry about that. The same thing happened to me a while back. I spent an hour and a half one Saturday writing an article… went to post it, and Ernie had posted pretty much the exact same thing. I just modified it into a different article. Great writers think alike, methinks! ; )

      • Sergio Quintero

        Me thinks also!!

  • Rob Base

    I think possibly a combo of power run game and some quick slant rout passes. Can’t wait to see Woodhead , Fozzy Bear and Allen in action. Bolts have several options on O. Plus plays won’t be as predictable as Norvals play calling.

    • Peter Thompson


  • BlueBoltFan

    Also, Alabama used a sort of zone blocking scheme for many of their running plays. I think it’s more about removing limitations and/or labels than just shifting from one to the other.

    McCoy isn’t going to run a specific scheme as much as use elements of both as it fits the players he has. In a year or two, we might be looking at a more zone heavy scheme, or maybe one that’s 50/50.

    • Alter Ego

      Exactly. Power Zone.

  • MC Boltman

    Yeh, already when they drafted Fluker I was wondering what that means for the new zone blocking scheme that coach “JoeD” may want to establish. Now with that Starks signing, I think its pretty clear IMO that we won´t see that much ZB in 2013 as maybe expected. Just like Whisenhunt and McCoy I think JoeD knows what to do and will adapt the system according to the strengths of his players. #FaithInCoachingStaff .. cool write-up btw :)

    • Peter Thompson

      Thanks brudda. I was a little bit excited for the zone blocking scheme, in the beginning. Mainly, because I have seen what it can do for guys like Arian Foster. Arian has MUCH better vision than Mathews, but if RM24 can improve on his vision, he could have had similar results in the zone blocking scheme.. heaven forbid… run for a 70+ (or even 80+) yard TD!!! However, I’ll take having all that road-grading nastiness up front too. Not gonna complain, whatsoever.. hahaha!

  • Beltz

    I think you have Rheinhart starting at both guard spots. Did you meant Clary at right tackle?

    • Peter Thompson

      No, I meant Reinhart at left guard. Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed. That’s what I get for writing articles on the fly when I am in a rush.

  • Gunnar Martin

    Play to the player’s strengths, that’s all I can say.

  • arnie

    Well my two cents, being wrong ain’t so bad. While i knew Max Starks was a possibility I didn’t believe that move would be made, on account of the cap. However, I guess HC McCoy may have realized, in OTA’s, it was move that was necessary. Like they say, you never know what you got, until the pads go on. In this case all that was needed was the helmets. What did surprise me is the release of Haslam. I don’t know if is was a numbers thing, or not living up to standards. MM did say “they would set goals and standards”, either way, somebody was on the short list.
    Ultimately Peter, I think the O-line is still taking shape. And I like the direction it’s going in.

    • Peter Thompson

      Agreed. But, there is still a chance Dunlap starts. McCoy has said multiple times “We’re going to put the best 5 guys out there”. Now we have a little thing called “depth” that we haven’t had that in a minute. Even after they figure out who is starting, it’s gonna take a while for them to play well together without even thinking about it.

  • C.Steele

    I am pretty confident that Coach and GM have both stated on numerous occasions they will ‘coach to their players strengths’. With that being said, I’m sure the offensive line coach, Coach D, is capable of coaching both styles, Zone and Power, without loosing sleep over it. In addition, to my knowledge they never committed to a zone blocking scheme. That “factual certainty” came from pundits, columnist & bloggers. I suggest we all chill on fretting over zone Or power, let the coaches coach and see how it turns out… Go Bolts!!!

  • Cgoodness13

    Why do people say that our coaches can only coach one scheme? I’ve herd pagano can only coach the 3-4 & joe d can only coach zone. If they could only coach one scheme they wouldn’t be in the nfl, they’d be assistant coaches in high school.

    • Peter Thompson

      Great point, CG13! I was watching John Pagano get interviewed the other day, and he said “Us defensive coordinators kind of chuckle. The difference between running a 3-4 & a 4-3 is pretty minimal”. Joe D’ will be fine. We will most likely run a hybrid. But, when they signed Reinheart, and Ohrnberger, and Clary was still playing RT.. it seemed like that was where we were headed. But, as Arnie pointed out, the line is still taking shape. We’ll see.

  • Peter Thompson

    Funny thing I have noticed. When people are talking about a 4-3 player switching to a 3-4, there are always a ton of people who come out of the woodworks to say how it won’t work. People will even go as far as to say that Pagano can’t run a 4-3. But, nobody seems to think that Coach Joe D’ will have any trouble running a power blocking scheme, when he has had most of his success running a zone blocking scheme. Personally, I think he can… and I think Pagano could run 4-3 also.. but, it’s interesting to see what people think players & coaches can (or can’t) do… and what they will (or won’t) get behind.