Hey, guys. We need to talk about the San Diego Chargers offensive line, because things are spinning out of control.
Specifically, we need to talk about the right side of the offensive line. Last year, that meant Johnnie Troutman at Right Guard (RG) and D.J. Fluker at Right Tackle (RT). Those two played a big role in what Football Outsiders graded as the 31st best offensive line in a league of 32 teams. (The only team worse finished with the worst record in the league.)
Obviously, the offensive line had huge problems. It required an overhaul in the offseason. Tom Telesco saw that and acted. In comes Orlando Franklin to play LG, and in comes Joe Barksdale to....sit on the bench?
Check out this quote from a recent story by Michael Gehlken from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
On the right, there are options with guard Johnnie Troutman and tackle D.J. Fluker returning. As of right now, Joe Barskdale, a recent signing, projects as depth as a No. 3 tackle, but he and guard Jeremiah Sirles, a second-year player, figure to be among those who push for reps in training camp. Source
Pardon my French, but what the shit is that?
The Chargers do some stupid things, but they can't possibly be stupid enough to think of Joe Barksdale as a backup and Johnnie Troutman as a starter. Right?
Digging into the numbers
Pro Football Focus is really the only site out there that gives individual grades to offensive linemen. While they're not perfect, they're good, and worth looking at and comparing. It's one of the places that people ran to after the signing of Barksdale was announced to see how he fit in.
OT Ratings (2014):
- King Dunlap: 6.8 (23rd overall)
- Joe Barksdale: -5.9 (48th overall)
- D.J. Fluker: -8.8 (55th overall)
Well, this seems like an easy equation. Fluker, who is the lesser of the two right tackles above, has always been viewed as scouts as a potentially great offensive guard. Which, ummm, is pretty necessary...
OG Ratings (2014):
- Orlando Franklin: 12.0 (13th overall)
- Chard Rinehart: -22.7 (73rd overall)
- Johnnie Troutman: -25.1 (77th overall)
Yeah, so, that hole at RG is still a problem even though the one at LG has been filled by Franklin. Barksdale allows Fluker to fill that hole, which allows Fluker to play to his strengths (strength) and avoid his weaknesses (speed rushers).
Why are we still here?
This should be cut and dry, right? Barring any injuries, the Chargers' offensive line on Day 1 should look like this:
LT King Dunlap
LG Orlando Franklin
C Chris Watt
RG D.J. Fluker
RT Joe Barksdale
However, people still persist and argue that Fluker will be the team's starting RT and deserves that spot. Their argument is that last year was a fluke, and that Fluker was dragged down by the poor play at RG and Center. Fluker showed so much in his rookie season that he should essentially be the starter at RT for a good long time.
OT Ratings (2013):
- King Dunlap: 22.7 (6th overall)
- Joe Barksdale: 9.2 (25th overall)
- D.J. Fluker: -2.8 (40th overall)
Look, I like Fluker too. Great guy, great size, great strength. I wanted him to work out at Right Tackle, but the fact of the matter is, he's no better than Jeromey Clary was out there. The same Clary that McCoy and Telesco decided had to be replaced with a first round draft pick in Fluker.
This isn't my opinion, look at the PFF ratings side-by-side and you'll see that 2012 Clary and 2013 Fluker were essentially the same player, and Fluker has only gotten worse since then. (And, even at his worst, Clary was not as bad as Troutman was last year.)
Announce it already
If the Chargers' true goal is to field the best team, the one that gives them the best chance at winning, they simply can't go with Troutman as their starting RG and Fluker as their starting RT. They have to take advantage of the talent they have on the roster to fill those holes.
It's time to give Fluker a fresh start and a chance to succeed. It's time to take advantage of the better Right Tackle on the roster and make Joe Barksdale the starter. It is time to superglue Johnnie Troutman's ass to the bench until somebody gets injured (hopefully in an incident unrelated to superglue), or maybe even move him behind Sirles on the depth chart.
So, why are the Chargers playing around with this? Why haven't they announced that this is their offensive line? Why is the head Chargers beat reporter from the only San Diego newspaper in town writing about Barksdale like he's an extra swing tackle that might never see the field? Are the Chargers so afraid of the shitstorm that will come when they announce Fluker is moving to guard?
I just don't get it.