My selection in the SB Nation Writers' Mock Draft was finally revealed this morning, and the fallout has been a bit overwhelming. My twitter mentions, in particular, have been getting hammered all day with those that think the San Diego Chargers could not possibly survive without drafting a Left Tackle with their #11 pick. I feel like they could. Allow me to explain.
I haven't forgotten that Jared Gaither is a talented player. I haven't forgotten how great he was during those last five games of 2011, or how good he was in the three games in which he was healthy last season. He has had stretches of his career where he's lacked motivation, and stretches where he could not stay healthy, but Jared has also had stretches of dominance in Baltimore and San Diego that prove he has the talent to be worth the contract he received before last season.
I think blaming Jared Gaither, Mike Harris and the Left Tackle position in general is too easy. The Chargers can't believe that a new Left Tackle would fix all of their problems, because you could argue that Left Guard was an even bigger problem in 2012 and a big reason why everyone struggled at Left Tackle.
As I mentioned in last week's video podcast, I don't think Tom Telesco is trying to replace talent with talent. I don't think he's trying to find a Marcus McNeill to play LT or a Kris Dielman to play LG. Rather, I believe that he and Mike McCoy decided to rebuild the offensive line with a Zone Blocking Scheme specifically so that they wouldn't have to draft linemen early or pay a high price for them on the free agent market.
Instead of loading up on talent, it appears that Kid Dynamite has assembled a collection of less-than-dominant, inexpensive players that can work within the system of a Zone Blocking Scheme. Even in pass protection, ZBS relies more on timing and confusing the opposition than overpowering them. In that regard, whoever plays Left Tackle will get more help than was given in 2012.
The Guard spots are both up for grabs. Johnnie Troutman, Chad Rinehart, David Molk, Colin Baxter and probably a few others will compete for the two available starting jobs and one or two backup roles.
I believe the Left Tackle spot is also going to be left to a preseason competition, with the team content to live with "average" Jeromey Clary at Right Tackle for another season. That way they're only trying to start 3 new players on the offensive line instead of 4. The San Diego Chargers currently have four players on their roster that started games at Left Tackle in the NFL last season. Why does a fifth, with no starting experience, need to be added and given the "inside track" to win? That seems like a waste of depth to me.
I understand that nobody wants a repeat of 2012. I understand that many think that having Jared Gaither, Mike Harris, King Dunlap or Kevin Haslam as the team's starting Left Tackle means that the team will have changed nothing and will be destined to the same fate. What needs to be pointed out is that this is not 2012's offensive line. The coach is different, the blocking scheme is different, the Guards are different and the offense is different.
The Guards on the roster aren't more talented than last year's Guards. In fact, they might be less talented. However, the scheme is better suited to get more from them than the Power Blocking Scheme was getting from Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez. The starting Tackles might very well be King Dunlap and Jeromey Clary in Week 1, but the entire blocking scheme will have been built in a way that puts those guys in a position to succeed more than whoever was playing Tackle last season.
In summary, Norv Turner's offense and offensive line asked for perfection and talent. If the GM could get good players on the roster, Norv's offense would work and his Quarterback would be protected. Based on his reputation and the coaches he has hired for his staff, it would appear Mike McCoy will create fresh gameplans to get the best results from the players that he has. Once you realize that, you'll understand why Tom Telesco using the #11 pick on a Left Tackle isn't set in stone and why he continues to say that he'll use all of his picks to draft the "best player available".