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D.J Fluker's replacement at right tackle

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Taking a look at a possible replacement at right tackle, and possible future replacement at left tackle

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that D.J. Fluker is moving inside to guard, right tackle has become a priority for the Chargers. King Dunlap is a free agent and will be 30 years old so the Chargers will have to develop a left tackle as well. While San Diego has the money to pay for a successful veteran at the position, it would make sense to hand pick "your guy."

    "That guy" might be T.J. Clemmings. A massive frame, Clemmings is 6'6 315 with what look to be incredibly long arms. Clemmings is relatively new to the position, as he played defensive tackle just a few seasons ago when he first got to Pittsburgh. Many will say Clemmings is "raw" by default, but it doesn't come off like that when I watch him. Does he make mistakes? Of course. The ones he makes aren't any different from the mistakes guys who have played the position all of their life. He also does things that are rare for his position.

Where he excels

  • Initial Contact/punch
  • Getting to landmark in pass protection
  • Combo/2nd level blocking
  • Power


Strong. Like, embarrassingly strong. Watched 4 games of Clemmings and there were over a handful of times where he would knock the defender over with his initial punch. It's one thing to jolt linebackers, it's a totally different story when you're doing that to defensive ends and tackles. I liked the fact that Clemmings was intent on making 1st contact. From there he could use that crazy punch of his, or lock the defender out and drive them out of the hole.

Then the drive

Clemmings had 24 combined knockdowns/drive blocks in 4 game, four! It almost jaw dropping.

Most run schemes in the NFL will call for lineman to work in combination to execute a block while working to the 2nd level to account for the linebacker. For someone new to the position I thought Clemmings showed that he can execute at a high level. His athleticism is excellent as he moved effortlessly in every direction and put himself in a position to make every block he was asked to do. I remember him on a wide receiver screen and he got out in space and got his hands on the corner without having to leave his feet. Even without extreme examples, Clemmings showed he can do anything that is asked of him.


I would guess the main issue that led to Fluker kicking inside to guard was that he struggled to get to his landmark in pass protection. Fluker never adjusted his angles and that led to him giving up the edge to speed rushers. I mentioned how easy of a mover Clemmings is, and I jotted down several times how quickly he got to his spot. Not one time was he beat around the edge with a speed rush. The one time he came close, he got just enough of the edge rusher to prevent any damage. Virginia has 2 very, very good edge rushers and against those 2 he pitched a shut out.

Blown Block(R) Blown Block(P) On the Ground QB Hit Sack Drive Block Knockdown
4.5 4.5 7 1 12 12


As you can see from the table, it averages out to Clemmings getting beat about twice a game. You can't ask for much better than that, guys get beat, you just have to accept that. The fact that he gets beat roughly 2 times over the course of 60 plays tells me he has a bright future. There are certainly things where he can work on, however.

Areas of improvement

  • Playing under control
  • Consistency until the whistle

I only noticed it on a couple of plays, one where he was beat badly. At his size, Clemmings will have to sit down in is stance more-so than other tackles because of his size. I can see pass rushers trying to get up under his pads and trying to bull rush him. Many tried and he was able to lock them out with no issue. It'll be something to keep an eye on with more talented NFL rushers if they're able to do this.


Other than that I think Clemmings can do a better job of playing under control. He had 5 negative plays where it's because he either overextended or over ran the linebacker and whiffed. When he harnesses his aggression, he's a stud. But he has to do this on every down.


Last thing I noted was Clemmings would occasionally not engage until the whistle and the defender would be in a position to finish the play. It's small, but blocking for 3 seconds instead of 2 is the difference between a 3 yards run(where the defender makes the play) and a 12 yard run.

Grade

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable 4.0

Space Blocking 4 3.7
Speed Rush 4 3.8
Power Run 2.5 2.5
Power Rush 2.5 2.2
Strength 2 2
Technique 2 1.4
Change of Direction 2 1.7
Quickness 2 1.8
Size 2 2
Length 2 2

Clemmings grades out to an 8.31, just below a Pro Bowl player. For perspective, Clemmings would've graded out as the 7th highest player in last years draft, I'm that high on him. I'm sure he'll pick up steam as we get into the all-star season and the combine approaches. I just think you really have to nitpick when finding what's wrong with him and he doesn't have an issue that isn't correctable. Basically, he could be Tyron Smith in a few years, and I think the world of Smith.

How he fits as a Charger

If he's there at 17, the power on the right side of the line would be top 5 in the league. I get excited thinking about it. Clemmings also can protect the quarterback and will only get better with more repetition. Him having a great teacher at his disposal in Joe D'Alessandris with the scheme fit of the Chargers really gives the offensive line a true "building block." Let's pretend the team signs King Dunlap to a 2 year extension, there's no reason Clemmings can't develop into the future left tackle given his tools as well. If this position isn't addressed in free agency, and if there's no "must have" playmaker on the board, I don't see how you can pass up Clemmings.