Chargers Teammates of the Week: Philip Rivers and King Dunlap

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

King Dunlap has been a welcome surprise at left tackle when he's been on the field for the San Diego Chargers, and has helped turn the offensive line around, but can the team depend on him?

King, a mountain of a man signed by the Chargers in the offseason to compete for the role of left tackle. Based on how vigorously the team went after Bryant McKinnie and then Max Starks, it was obvious that the plan was for Dunlap to be a backup tackle on this team. When McKinnie signed with the Ravens and Starks ended up being a bust, the team was left with Dunlap as their only option.

First, the good news. Dunlap has been fantastic. Despite playing just 396 offensive snaps this season, Dunlap is ranked as the 23rd best offensive tackle in the league and the 3rd best offensive player on the team, according to Pro Football Focus. When he has been on the field, he's handled pass rushers by himself and has been nearly dominant as a run blocker as well.

Now, the bad news. King Dunlap can not stay on the field. While he has technically started and played in 7 of the Chargers' 10 games this season, he left 2 of those games early with injuries. His 396 offensive snaps are just a little more than half of the team's total, 702 offensive snaps.

If you take out those 3 games his missed, and the 2 games where he left early (D.J. Fluker filled in for him both times), the team is still 2-3. It's actually a perfectly symmetrical sample size, because...

  • In 179 pass attempts in the 5 games with Dunlap, Rivers has thrown 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
  • In 179 pass attempts thrown in the 3 games without Dunlap or the 2 games in which is missed significant time, Rivers has throw 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

After 10 games last season, Jared Gaither had played in just 4 games and totaled 249 offensive snaps. While he was obviously talented when on the field, his inability to stay healthy and his poor reputation eventually led to him being released in the offseason.

There's no doubting that Dunlap being at left tackle helps the team and Philip Rivers, but his inconsistencies will probably lead to him being released in the offseason (which would save the team $1.4 million) or made into a backup (if he can beat out Mike Harris for the spot).

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