Is DJ Fluker the future at left tackle? That’s the question I keep asking myself. He wasn’t supposed to be a good pass blocker. He wasn’t supposed to be able to handle the responsibilities of the right tackle position, nonetheless protect Rivers’ blind side. On Sunday, Fluker illustrated just how valuable of an asset his dedication to improvement can be at the left tackle position.
On Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Fluker showed his development against one of the best pass rushing duos in the league, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, with 20 sacks between them on the season. Fluker struggled a bit against Hali to start the game. When Hali didn’t come right at him, it left Fluker confused and struggling to find someone to block while Rivers’ pocket collapsed. But, DJ never wavered. He continued to play aggressively and never let Hali get a sack.
In the end of the 2nd quarter, Fluker let Frank Zombo get by him on on a nice inside move. Rivers was nearly brought down before he got the ball away. The play followed a false start by Fluker, so he obviously still has a ways to go to adjust to the left side. He is also still having trouble with speed rushers off the edge. During the game winning drive, Eric Berry blew by Fluker after a good initial block to record the only sack of Rivers on the day. However, these are issues that Fluker has time to figure out.
Fluker’s bad plays should be the least of the Chargers’ worries. Jeromey Clary was getting beat on the right side of the line consistently. Most notably, in the 2nd quarter he allowed Justin Houston to get to Rivers almost untouched, almost causing a strip sack in our own redzone. Rivers luckily avoided the sack and the fumble, but the play still resulted in a 3rd and very long, (which Mathews was unable to convert). Clary looked far less capable on the right side than Fluker did on the left.
Fluker still looks like an absolute animal when he gets to move forward, instantly improving the run blocking on the left side when he made the switch. But is this the best use of his skills? He obviously has the determination to make it work, but is it ideal in the long term? I think it is definitely possible for Fluker to be successful in the NFL as a left tackle, but it would not be ideal. This year has forced Fluker to improve his pass blocking at a much quicker rate than he would have on the right side. If/when he moves back to the right side, we will see just how much better he has become, and how important he will be to the right side of the o-line for years to come
What position will Fluker end up playing long-term? Chime in on the poll, in the comments, or on twitter @kingofcahill