Chargers Offensive Line Depth Chart and Position Battles

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Draft - Done, Free Agency - Mostly Done.  AJ says they guys we have now are the guys we are going to start the season with. 

Offensive line is a position group that can make an old RB look like an All-Pro or a 29 year old RB looks like he is over the hill.  I think the main factor contributing to LT's dropping per carry average over the past few years has been the O Line's troubles.  Last year we had injury problems.  Hardwick was injured and missed the first few games and wasn't right until mid way through the season.  McNeil had a neck injury that plagued him all year (he is still recovering from it).  Goff got real old between 07 and 08 and lost a lot of effectiveness.  Clary, in his first full year starting (he stepped in mid 07 for Shane Olivea), was pretty good against mediocre or worse DEs.  He was really exposed against the better DEs.  Part of that could have been due to Goff's demise, but part of it is learning the position on the job.  Over the last 3 years we have transitioned from a "we will run when and where we want to run" O Line to a "I hope we can conver this 3rd and 1" O Line.  We wll see if that changes this year.

The offensive line was addressed in the draft by bringing in Louis Vasquez (Guard) and Tyronne Green (Center and maybe guard).  A lot of us were worried about the RT position that Clary occupied last year and that position wasn't addressed in the draft or FA.  Mike Goff, starting RG departed in the off season and Kynan Forney sign a mid-sized 2 year contract to replace him.  Jeremy Newbury was our backup center and started a few games last year and he will not be back.

 

So now that the pieces are in place, its time to throw together a preliminary depth chart and have a look at our depth and any potential position battles looming. 

 

Name Position(s) Experience Max Games Started in a Season Max Games Played in a Season Notes
Marcus McNeil LT 4 16 16 Pro Bowl, recovered from neck injury?
Kris Dielman LG 7 16 16 Pro Bowl
Nick Hardwick C 6 16 16 Pro Bowl
Kynan Forney RG 9 16 16 Pro Bowl Alternate in 2005 with Atlanta.  No games playes last year with Bolts, active for 3 games.  Sign 2 year $4.8M deal in off season.
Jeromey Clary RT 3 16 16 Starter for ~1.5 seasons
Scott Mruczkowski G, C 5 1 15 Merch-COW-ski. 7th Round 2005. New 3 year contract in offseason.  Started 1 game in 2008 for Dielman when he had stomach virus.  Also replaced Dielman after the "phantom punch"
L.J. Shelton T 11 16 16 2nd year with Chargers.  Started 2 games last year in place of injured McNeil.
Corey Clark T 1 7th Round 2008.  Waived for one week in 2008 in roster move, re-signed following week.
Brandyn Dombrowski G, T 1 UDFA 2008, Practice squad all last year. SDSU baby!
Louis Vasquez G R 3rd Round 2009
Tyronne Green C R 4th Round 2009

UDFA 2009 - Ryan  McDonald, C; Ben Muth, G; Sam Allen, G, T; Dan Gay, T;

Position Starters / Battles

 LT - Marcus McNeil - If he is healthy he is as good as they come

LG - Kris Dielman - Stud

C - Nick Hardwick - Heart and Soul (and Brain) of the offensive line.

RG - Here is our first position battle.  There are a lot of unknowns here.  Pre-draft, I think we were assuming Kynan Forney would have the inside track.  He is a veteran who has had some success.  Although why he didn't see the field at all last year is a bit of a mystery.  Pre-draft, Forney's biggest threat was probably coming from Scott Mruczkowski.  Scott was the first guard off the bench last year and spent some quality time on the field, with one start in place of Dielman and lots of game time with the offense in injury replacement and giving guys a break.  Louis Vasquez is the rookie everyone was talking about after minicamp.  He definately looks the part, whether he plays the part remains to be seen.  One potential draw back is that he did come out of a spread offense at Texas Tech.  Lots of pass blocking with wide splits and not much run blocking.  Didn't have his hand on the ground a lot.  There will be some adjustment, especially for a guard, coming out of this style of offense.  It should be a good battle and I would expect Forney and his new contract to start, although it wouldn't surprise me too much if Vasquez won the job in camp.  I think Mruczkowski is a too valuable as a versatile backup and will have to really knock people's socks off to have them give up their security blanket with the difficult to pronounce name,

RT - Jeromey Clary - Going into the draft, we all thought we were going to draft someone to challenge Clary.  You know what? We didn't draft a single tackle.  Hrrmph.  Looks like Clary is going to start here.  We have mixed opinions on Clary.  We like his brute strength, but notice that he needs help stopping the upper echelon of pass rushers (the guys we see every week in the playoffs).  Some try to pin his failings on Goff's poor play last year and I can see how that could happen.  Either way, I don't see anyone challenging Clary, so he is what we've got.

Game Day Actives - These are the guys you count on as your backups on a week to week basis.  LJ Shelton at either tackle position, veteran and can step in and play and not skip a beat.  Scott Mruczkowski is the first guy off the bench for either guard position, has also played some center.  Louis Vasquez the rookie will probably be in the mix, although if he has trouble adjusting, he might be inactive until he gets it together.  The Chargers usually had 8 active lineman, so if Vasquez is inactive we might see Brandyn Dombrowski here or maybe the other rookie Tyronne Green.

Game Day Inactives - These guys are on the roster but are wearing sweats on the sidelines.  This usually will only change week to week because of injury or a rookie getting it together. Corey Clark was on the roster all last year so there had to be some faith in his abilities.  I don't know enough about him to think he might push Clary, so I'm going to assume he is going to fill the same role as last year essentially backing up the backup, and will be inactive week to week.  Plus whichever of Dombrowski, Vasquez, and Green and not active.  And one of those 4 might not make it.  If I had to guess, I would say Clark sticks around because he is the other backup tackle with experience.  Green and/or Dombrowski could be on the practice squad.

UDFAs who mght make some noise.  I like Dan Gay. Although he is probably a practice squadder at most this year.

Depth Analysis

 I really like our depth.  We've got battle tested backups in Shelton and Mruczkowski and a good mix of young guys coming up through the ranks from the practice squad and inactive lists.  We've got a 3rd round rookie who could push a starter or start.  All said, I feel good with the depth.  I think our questions remain on the right side with Forney and Clary, but I'm optimistic that Forney can find his place on the line and Clary will be improved with another year and RG upgraded.  Health-wise, we are much better off this year than last year.  McNeil was held out of minicamp, but hopefully that was just precautionary, we'll see.

 

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