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Chargers position battles: Predicting starting offensive line pre-training camp

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11: Matt Slauson #68 of the San Diego Chargers breaks up a turnover opportunity by Wes Horton #96 of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during the game at Bank of America Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11: Matt Slauson #68 of the San Diego Chargers breaks up a turnover opportunity by Wes Horton #96 of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during the game at Bank of America Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Over the last handful of seasons, the Los Angeles Chargers have had one of the worst offensive lines in football.

If you talk to Chargers fans, you should get very little argument about whether or not the above statement is true. The proof has been in the pudding, so to speak.

Philip Rivers has been under entirely too much pressure and the team just hasn’t been able to be the offensive machine that it has the capability of being. But with a few key additions, that could swing the other way this season.

That is because general manager Tom Telesco put forth a concerted effort to improve that aspect of the team this offseason. Whether he succeeded in his quest remains to be seen, but there is certainly optimism that the additions he made will prove fruitful.

As we count down to the final days before the Chargers open training camp, we have been discussing specific position battles. There will be plenty of competition along the offensive line and though things can certainly change in camp and preseason and as a result, we’ll likely revisit this topic before the 2017 regular season starts.

That said, here’s how I see the Chargers’ starting offensive line looking as of right now.

Left Tackle- Russell Okung: He may not be drawing rave reviews from Chargers fans, but Russell Okung will almost certainly open the season with the responsibility of protecting Rivers’ blind side.

A former first-round pick, Okung has been selected to the Pro Bowl and he also knows what it’s like to hold the Lombardi Trophy high in the air after a Super Bowl victory. He struggled in Denver last year, but he brings experience to the Chargers and if he can return to his 2012 form, or anywhere near it, the Chargers found a gem in free agency.

KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Philip Rivers
KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Philip Rivers

Guard- Matt Slauson: Casey Hayward had a great first season with the Chargers, but let’s not forget the job that Matt Slauson came over and did.

Much like Hayward, Slauson was almost forgotten as a free agent and all he did was come to the Chargers and take over as the team’s starting center, a position that had greatly troubled the team in 2015.

Slauson could still be in the mix to play center again this season, but the team has better options entering this season than it did in 2016.

Center- Spencer Pulley: Many fans are going to want to insert Max Tuerk’s name here, but Spencer Pulley has taken the bull by the horns in this race this offseason, trying to carve out a role for himself on the team.

That’s tough news for Tuerk, who sat on the sidelines all of his rookie year, hoping to develop into the starting center. But for Tuerk, playing so close to his hometown may also provide him the motivation to step up.

I’ll give Pulley the nod for now, but Tuerk could still win the job in what should be an interesting competition.

Guard- Forrest Lamp: There’s just no way this guy, even as a rookie, won’t be in the starting lineup.

It’s still hard to believe that the Chargers were able to get Forrest Lamp with the No. 38 overall pick in the draft ad he is going to make waves early. In fact, he may end the season as the team’s best offensive lineman.

KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 13: Dee Ford
KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 13: Dee Ford

Right Tackle- Joe Barksdale: For now, Joe Barksdale is the starter here but I wouldn’t be excited about it. If this line has a weakness, to me this is it.

Barksdale is a veteran and can be a serviceable job at right tackle, but he’ll win this job because who else is going to take it from him? Chris Hairston? Tyreek Burwell?

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Other Notes: Dan Feeney is a guy to watch. He’s young and will likely start the season as a reserve lineman, but he is a future starter. If Barksdale struggles, the team could have the option to move Lamp to right tackle and insert Feeney into one of the starting guard spots.

Another player to keep a close eye on in camp is second-year lineman Donavan Clark. Last year’s seventh-round pick spent the entire season on injured reserve, but could come into camp hungry to prove he belongs on the roster.

At 6’4″ and 300 pounds, Clark is a tough, intelligent player who played multiple positions on the line while at Michigan State in college.

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