Thus far, we have covered Chargers quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends. Today we examine the offensive line, which thanks to a rash of injuries, was arguably the worst position group of 2015.
- Spencer Pulley
- Max Tuerk
- Matt Slauson
- Orlando Franklin
- Vi Teofilo
- D.J. Fluker
- Chris Hairston
- Marcel Jones
- Kenny Wiggins
- Joe Barksdale
- Brett Boyko
- Tyreek Burwell
- King Dunlap
- Tyler Johnstone
- Chris Watt
We have to start by looking at the starters. Four of last year’s starters are back for 2016. King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, D.J. Fluker, and Joe Barksdale will reprise their roles from 2015. The lone new starter is former Chicago Bears interior lineman Matt Slauson. He replaces Trevor Robinson, who was cut earlier this Summer. Robinson was one of the worst performing offensive linemen in the NFL last year, and Slauson has consistently been an above average player.
Slauson’s effect on the offensive line will be greater than simply upgrading the center position. He will also allow the guards, Franklin and Fluker, to focus on doing their jobs without having to worry that their center is not doing his. Those guards, neither of whom looked great last season, will also benefit from greater comfort int heir roles. Franklin was adapting to a new system and new team last year. And Fluker was playing his first season as a guard. He is going into his second season as a guard and his first with a full offseason of preparation for it.
Joe Barksdale was very effective at right tackle last season and the Chargers did well to re-sign him to man the right side again this year. He’s a known quantity and the team can feel confident in what they’re getting from him.
King Dunlap is a very talented player that struggled with staying on the field in 2015. If he can stay healthy in 2016, the Chargers are set at left tackle. If he can’t, well, things are a lot less settled
Perhaps the most exciting backup (insomuch as any backup offensive lineman is exciting) was Donavon Clark, but it was reported while I was typing this that he has a torn ACL and will be out for the season, so we won’t spend any more time on him right now.
The new most exciting backup is probably undrafted free agent Spencer Pulley. With a general lack of depth on the interior compounded by injuries to Clark and Watt, Pulley seems almost certain to make the final 53-man roster, and that’s not a bad thing because the young man looks like he is ready to step in if necessary.
Chris Hairston seemed like a lock to make the roster when he re-signed this Spring and he may still be since the coaching staff loves its veterans, but he has not looked good in training camp or the preseason. He could be pushed by Boyko, Burwell, and Johnstone, though most likely just Burwell. Tyreek Burwell has looked better than he did last year and still has some untapped potential.
Kenny Wiggins and Vi Teofilo are also players that could potentially make the roster. Wiggins has been with the organization for some time now and the Chargers value that quality, but he has not looked very good.
Better or worse?
Better. Frankly, it would have been difficult to be worse. Slauson is such a huge improvement over Robinson that you have to expect the line overall will be much better before you even account for the depth. The depth is still not quite what you would hope for, but it is superior to last season, so there is movement in the right direction.