November 25, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) calls plays at the line during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
I said it before and I still stand by it, Philip Rivers was never in much of a decline as was the offensive line during the hard years of his turnover issues. In the past, Rivers had a mean, nasty man by the name of Kris Dielman and a massive rock named Marcus McNeil, both pro-bowlers, protecting the blindside of our quarterback. Dielman went on to retire at the end of the 2011 season after a grand mal seizure and McNeil was released after the 2011 season due to continuous neck and back injuries, ultimately leading up to his own retirement. In the 2011 season, Dielman would go on to miss 10 games after suffering a concussion in the week 7 game against the New York Jets, up to this point the Chargers would have a respectable record of 4-1, after losing our 2x All-Pro left guard, the Chargers would lose the next six games. McNeil could only play nine games into the same season before taking Injured Reserve (IR), followed by rotating left tackles for two games before Jared Gaither would solidify the line (this sounded weird as I was repeating it in my head) for the final five games, four of which we would win.
What Dielman and McNeil brought to the offensive line was time, lots and lots of time. They could pass protect Rivers’ blindside for as long as he needed to throw the ball far and over the heads of defenders and into the arms of our receivers. In 2006, the majority of Tomlinson’s long rushing gains attributed from the left side of the line, behind the duo of Dielman and McNeil. Not to mention another key factor in Rivers’ game plan, Darren Sproles! Sproles was lost to the New Orleans Saints after the 2010 season. We lost our lightning bug, our check down, our screen pass, our primed punt returns. Take away those three key players, include Vincent Jackson as a fourth and you take away the ingredients to make Philip Rivers successful.
Chad Reinhart (left guard) and King Dunlap (left tackle) are the frontrunners to take over as Rivers’ new blindside. Although they may never live up to be Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeil they are an upgrade from last year’s group or Tyronne Green and Jared Gaither, Kevin Haslam and Mike Harris. Furthermore, we have a new head coach in Mike McCoy who will reinvent the offense to what works best for the team overall and if shorter passes and quick releases gets the job done, that can only make Rivers look to be on a verge of a comeback with Reinhart and Dunlap looking like heroes for solidifying the offensive line. Reinhart was signed to a 1-year contract and initially it was Max Stark who was thought to be the starter at left tackle who was also a 1-year deal, this should be telling as to what we can expect in the 2014 draft. The entire blind side could see another overhaul with fresh new faces and depending on the pecking order we find ourselves at the end of the season we could land a long term solution at the left tackle or left guard position we’ve longed to fill.
Could the offensive line be magnificent and Rivers still struggle? Possibly. Is Rivers the type to stand down and give up when times are tough? Absolutely not! Rivers is a tough, gritty field general who has had known success, it would be ridiculous to say that Rivers will let a few years of poor play determine his fate. There have been many critics, there has been endless talk of this being his last audition, yet media hasn’t been telling of the changes that have occurred in training camp. Rivers and the entire offense will have a busy summer readjusting to a new system, but it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.