Dec 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick (61) before the Chargers game against the New York Giants at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Center: The Elephant In The Room

Tom Telesco has his work cut out for him in the upcoming draft. The Chargers need all kinds of help on the defensive side of the ball. They need to fill holes in the secondary, at nose tackle, at outside linebacker, and they could also use some middle linebacker & defensive end depth. On the offensive side of the ball, they could use another wide receiver, a back-up running back, a right guard, and a future left tackle. We also need to find a kick returner, as we haven’t had a reliable option for years. That’s a whole lot of holes to fill with just 7 picks (Maybe 8). We will definitely pick up some undrafted rookie free agents, and some players in free agency. But, our salary cap situation isn’t looking good at the moment, so picking up any big names in free agency seems unlikely.  Cuts will have to be made, and may create even more holes.

Then there is the elephant in the room. What about center? What is our plan for that? Right now, we only have Nick Hardwick and Rich Ohrnberger on the roster that can play the position. Last season, we all got a big scare when Hardwick pondered retirement. Thankfully, Hardwick returned, and will likely finish out the last year of his contract. But, what if he doesn’t? Are we ready to crown Rich Ohrnberger the new center? We saw Nick Hardwick get taken out of the game with a concussion this season, and Ohrnberger stepped in. Hardwick made a seemingly miraculous recovery and came back in the following week, but I don’t remember one person that wasn’t concerned. Also, people were concerned that Rich Ohrnberger would be our guy heading into the playoffs.

Back in 2012, AJ Smith drafted David Molk, and we kind of figured he would be the guy to eventually replace Hardwick. He was drafted with an injury, and sat out the entire 2012 season. He was drafted out of the University of Michigan, was a consensus All-American, and won the 2011 Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football. He stayed with the Chargers through preseason last season, but didn’t make it past final cuts. He signed a contract with the Philidelphia Eagles on January 9th. So, there went that plan.

I have seen a ton of projections for who the San Diego Chargers should draft this season, and what positions they need to fill. Almost none of them are listing center as an “immediate need”. Center will never be the “popular” pick, or be considered a first round target. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys took some heat from their fans when they drafted Wisconsin center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick of the 2013 draft.  Is that where we are headed? Are they going to wait until Hardwick retires, and hope that a starting caliber rookie center is sitting there for us in round two or three of the 2015 draft? Are we hoping to try to score an inexpensive free agent center? I’m not sure that is a very solid plan.

If that is the plan, we might be in big trouble. Something tells me that Tom Telesco must also know this. If so, you might want to pencil in a guy like Travis Swanson, Weston Richburg, Bryan Stork, or Hroniss Grasu somewhere on your mock draft boards around the 3rd or 4th round. I would imagine that you want to have a rookie develop for a year behind one of the best centers in the league, rather than give him a “trial by fire”. Or, perhaps TT will wait another year, and hope for the best.. or more likely.. pray that the worst doesn’t happen.

What do you think? Are we playing with fire if we don’t draft a center this season? Do you feel comfortable waiting until 2015 to figure it out? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!

Peter Thompson

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Tags: Nick Hardwick San Diego Chargers

  • ECAVILLE/Ace of Spades

    Build a championship team from the foundation up. The trenches of the line on both sides is the most important. Center and Nosetackle need to be solid.

  • Sergio Quintero

    Too many needs already, want to hope like crazy this isn’t another need, if Hardwicks leaves the odds of improving 9 wins, with the extremely difficult 2014 schedule takes an important tumble.

    • arnie

      We had too many needs last year and they still made the playoffs. However I’m not disagreeing with you, avoiding this will only make it worse.

  • Conor Cahill

    Definitely agree. When you look at the depth chart, you glance right over center because you still see Hardwick’s name. I can almost guarantee he wont be here in a year, and center is not a position you can throw someone into in the NFL, unless they are wise beyond their years. I still believe we have to hit this draft with a BPA philosophy and not discriminate against any position on our roster, besides QB and FS (possibly MLB depending on FA). Sure, we need help at corner, safety, DT, LG, RG, LT, WR, RB, etc etc etc but do you really trust anyone that isnt named Nick hardwick to be touching the ball EVERY PLAY? Hell no.

    • Peter Thompson

      Couldn’t agree more. While everyone its busy fighting over which cornerback, nose tackle, receiver, or OLB will be taken in the early round.. I dawned on me that not one person was talking about center (again). Don’t be surprised if TT takes one in the second. This guy will have to be a beast, and get all of PR’s signals down in just one year. I’m not sure you leave that up to a 4th or 5th round center. My feeling is that you can’t mess around with this position. Better get it right the first time.

      • Gunnar Martin

        Agreed. IMO the only positions that aren’t as much of a need are NT and CB. The center is very underrated. If he’s off, then chances are your entire offense is too. Hardwick is a huge reason why our offense has been great (well.. for the most part) consistently over the years. It’s really important that we find the next guy that Philip takes snaps from. I’m thinking within our top three picks this draft.

        • Peter Thompson

          It just dawned on me when we were talking about this last night. We have to move on this now. We can’t wait until next year. All I know is that I don’t want to be pining for the Nick Hardwick days, like we do for the Jamaal Williams & Rodney Harrison days. I’ve had just about enough of that.

          • Gunnar Martin

            Word. This all gets fixed under TT’s reign.

  • C.Steele

    Pete good call we do need a C out of this years draft. I can only imagine how TT feels it seems we have SO many holes to fill, no money, and only 7 draft pics.. I feel for the guy! Lastly, I think you confused Molk with the kid out of Pen State, Troutman, he was drafted with an injury and missed his rookie season, not Molk.

    • Peter Thompson

      You are probably right. I thought he was injured too for some reason. He just never saw the field then. Not surprised.. Hardwick is a beast, and never misses a game.

  • MachoMenos

    Sorry, we can only put out so many fires at a time. First things first. Let’s start by replacing our worst o-lineman (that would be Clary) and then next year we can concentrate on who can replace Nick Hardwick.

    • Peter Thompson

      I want both.. but, I’m greedy.