Chargers’ offensive line gets even thinner with Max Tuerk’s suspension
By Matt Pagels
With recent news of Max Tuerk’s suspension, the Chargers don’t have much depth on the offensive line.
Max Tuerk was the future at center.
Well, that’s what the Chargers were likely hoping for when they selected Tuerk in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Tuerk, who was a four-year starter at USC, had the versatility to play all along the line, making 18 starts at center, 14 starts at left guard, five at left tackle and one at right tackle. A knee injury Tuerk’s senior year caused him to fall in the draft. Scouts said he would have been selected higher if it weren’t for the injury, as the only knock on him was his lanky build (which ironically has hurt him).
But that’s OKAY, because the Chargers got a steal, right? Tuerk redshirted his rookie year and was expected to compete for a starting role in 2017. Former undrafted free agent Spencer Pulley started the year off as the starting center and hasn’t looked back since.
Tuerk, who’s been working with the second unit, didn’t stand out in the Chargers’ first two preseason games. Now the former Trojan’s chances of trying to prove his worth are even smaller after being suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. According to the team’s official website, Tuerk stated that he made the mistake of taking over-the-counter supplements that were tainted. He is still eligible to participate in the preseason.
Tuerk’s suspension isn’t going to “make or break” the Chargers season, but it doesn’t help the Bolts in terms of OL depth, as the team is now without Tuerk, 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp, who is out for the year after tearing his ACL in training camp and Tyreek Burwell, who suffered a broken hand in Week 2’s preseason game against the Saints. Not only that, but starting right tackle Joseph Barksdale is day-to-day with a sore foot. Luckily, starting left tackle Russell Okung was back at practice after missing a few days due to a sore ankle.
Overall, the Chargers’ offensive line, which already has depth concerns due not only to injury but to lack of talent, hasn’t really played well. Aside from the opening series in Week 1 of the preseason (the only drive with Philip Rivers playing quarterback), they haven’t been able to create a clean pocket for the quarterbacks or allow running room for the running backs. The line allowed eight sacks against a not-so-great New Orleans defense. The Chargers also finished with a 3.3 and 2.3 yards-per-carry average in the first and second game, respectively.
If the offensive line doesn’t pick it up, Rivers and Co. could be in for a long year.