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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
What's next for Chargers offensive line?

By Bill Williamson

Now that the San Diego Chargers seem to have their five starting offensive linemen figured out, ESPN’s Matt Williamson thinks they should get creative.

The Chargers solved an offseason-long need at left tackle by signing former Pittsburgh starter Max Starks. While Starks is not a long-term answer (the Chargers will likely try to address the position more permanently next year via free agency or the draft), he does complete the starting offensive line. The unit has been subpar for the past two years because of major injuries.

The Chargers used their first-round pick, No. 11 overall, on D.J. Fluker. He is expected to play right tackle. They signed Chad Rinehart in free agency; he is expected to start at left tackle. Former right tackle Jeromey Clary has the early edge over 2012 draft pick Johnnie Troutman, who was injured all of last season, at right guard. Longtime anchor Nick Hardwick remains the constant at center.

Williamson has other ideas San Diego might want to try.

He would move Starks to right tackle, use free-agent addition King Dunlap at left tackle and move Fluker to right guard.

“That way you would have one great player this year on that line in Fluker,” Williamson said. “I think he can be a Pro Bowler at right guard. I think he will struggle some at right tackle. He will have trouble sliding and dealing with speed rushers. At right guard, he can move ahead and smash people, which are his strengths.”

Williamson thinks Starks, who has played right tackle, can be successful on the right side, and that Dunlap can be a suitable short-term answer at left tackle. Dunlap can also play right tackle.

It’s an interesting concept. I get the idea of putting a player like Fluker where he can best help.

Even if the Chargers keep the current plan, I do think the unit is improved. That's not to say that, as a whole, it is above average -- there will still be work to do next year. But San Diego can get by with this group.

What is important is the Chargers’ offensive line is much deeper than it was in the past. In addition to Troutman, the team has youngsters in Troutman, David Molk and Mike Harris and free-agent pickup Rich Ohrnberger. If the line suffers massive injuries for a third consecutive year, it will be in better shape than in the past.