Did the San Diego Chargers Improve Their Offensive Line?

USA TODAY Sports

Comparing last year's San Diego Chargers Offensive Line to 2013's group to see how much Tom Telesco did to improve Philip Rivers' safety net.

Last week, John Gennaro pointed out that one of the worst things about being a fan of the San Diego Chargers is watching the backfield fade into obscurity following so many years of greatness with LaDainian Tomlinson carrying the ball. While some of that can be blamed on the crop of Tailbacks and Fullbacks fielded by the Chargers in 2012, some of their futility can be blamed on the 2012 Offensive Line.

Let's make the painful review, shall we?

2012 in Review

PFF Ratings
No. Player Position 2012 Play Count Pass Block Run Block Overall
65 Louis Vasquez G 1057 8.6 -2.0 12.8
61 Nick Hardwick C 1056 -5.6 -2.3 -6.1
66 Jeromey Clary T 859 -0.9 -0.7 4.8
69 Tyronne Green G 756 0.4 -1.6 -0.3
79 Michael Harris T 602 -31.2 -7.8 -43.4
67 Rex Hadnot G 306 0.9 -2.0 0.3
70 Kevin Haslam T/G 294 -4.3 -3.6 -6.3
78 Jared Gaither OT 249 -1.5 7.9 4.6
74 Reggie Wells G/T 120 2.3 -3.4 -1.2
60 David Molk C 15 0.2 -1.0 -0.8
64 Colin Baxter C 6 0.1 -1.0 -0.9
62 Brandyn Dombrowski OT 0 N/A
63 Johnnie Troutman G 0 N/A
72 Stephen Schilling T 0 N/A

Jared Gaither was the only lineman capable of producing a positive run-blocking rating. This offensive line was not doing the running backs any favors. Given all the drama surrounding the health of his back, it's easy to forget just how good a lineman Gaither really was.

Amusingly, given his reputation of being a penalty machine, Jeromy Clary was actually the best-rated Offensive Lineman on the Chargers in 2012 with regards to penalties.

Michael Harris had no business being the starting Left Tackle last year, and the ratings show that.

2013 Chargers Offensive Line

For 2013, the Chargers have added a couple new faces to the group of Running Backs, including a possible new starter.

No. Player Position Size Age Experience College
64 Colin Baxter C 6'3", 310lb 25 3 Arizona
61 Nick Hardwick C 6'4", 305lb 31 10 Purdue
60 David Molk C 6'1", 300lb 24 2 Michigan
74 Rich Ohrnberger C-G 6'2", 300lb 27 5 Penn State
78 Chad Rinehart G 6'5", 321lb 28 6 Northern Iowa
63 Johnnie Troutman G 6'4", 330lb 25 R Penn State
62 Brandyn Dombrowski G-T 6'5", 323lb 28 4 San Diego State
72 Steve Schilling G-T 6'5", 312lb 24 3 Michigan
76 D.J. Fluker OT 6'5", 339lb 22 R Alabama
67 Nick Becton OT 6'6", 323lb 23 R Virginia Tech
66 Jeromey Clary OT 6'6", 320lb 29 7 Kansas State
77 King Dunlap OT 6'9", 330lb 27 6 Auburn
79 Mike Harris OT 6'5", 318lb 24 2 UCLA
65 Randy Richards OT 6'3", 303lb 22 R Missouri State
70 Max Starks OT 6'8", 345lb 31 10 Florida

There is no doubt that the Chargers are going to miss Louis Vasquez heading into 2013. Though there may be some reasons to be optimistic here.

For starters, the team was caught flat-footed by Jared Gaither's — ahem — "injury" last year. They only had an undrafted rookie at their disposal to roll out in Gaither's stead. This turned out to be disastrous, which was pretty obvious when the best compliment all season was, "Mike Harris wasn't completely terrible this week!"

One benefit this year is the new Chargers leadership was able to plan for a life without Jared Gaither. It was pretty obvious they were letting him go from the start, so they were able to start picking up pieces to put in place. First snagging King Dunlap from the Eagles, then signed Guard Chad Rinehart from the Buffalo Bills the next day, then Rich Ohrnberger came from the Arizona Cardinals a week later.

Heading into the draft, it was pretty obvious that the Offensive Line was still a need, and the Chargers surprised few by selecting D.J. Fluker, then signing a few more undrafted rookies to shore up the line.

Verdict

Edge: 2013

As pointed out by John Gennaro, the focus on rebuilding the offensive line — moving Jeromey Clary inside, and drafting D.J. Fluker — the running game will be improved this year. That's not in question.

What does remain a question: will Philip Rivers be able to maintain a more vertical presence this year? I think any move that keeps Mike Harris off the field in pass protection immediately bolsters the line.

There is still some concern with the loss of Louis Vasquez, but I think there are enough pieces in place to pick up the slack. Do you agree?

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