Chargers' patchwork O-line playing well

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
10:34
PM ET
One of the bright spots from Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, according to San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, was the play of the offensive line.

Starting right tackle D.J. Fluker did not start due lingering concussion symptoms. Michael Harris started in his place.

During the game, left tackle King Dunlap suffered a concussion, and left guard Chad Rinehart sustained a toe injury.

Down three starters, the Chargers did some major reshuffling to make it through the game. Only center Nick Hardwick stayed in his position.

[+] EnlargeNick Hardwick
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsThe Chargers' uniform approach "provides for effectiveness when these things happen," center Nick Hardwick said of early-season injuries.
Harris moved to left tackle. Rich Ohrnberger, who came in for Rinehart at left guard, moved to right guard. Jeromey Clary moved from right guard to right tackle. And Johnnie Troutman made his first NFL appearance at left guard.

“A number of our guys had to step up,” McCoy said. “We had to shuffle the deck a couple times there. At the end of the game, it didn’t look anything like the five guys we had there to start the season out. There were four guys in there that were different, but to their credit, they did a nice job of stepping up.”

Hardwick said offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris prepared his unit to deal with injuries by having linemen work at multiple positions during training camp.

“They did a really good job during training camp of moving guys in and out, up and down the roster, and letting different guys work together,” Hardwick said. “And we’re all taught exactly the same. In our system, there’s no leeway for letting a guy do things his own way. You have to do it the way the system is designed, and that provides for effectiveness when these things happen.”

McCoy praised the performance of the offensive line and pointed specifically to Harris and Hardwick having strong games.

“I just trained myself during the offseason to be versatile,” said Harris, who started nine games at left tackle last season. “It’s a long season. Guys go down. It’s part of the game, so I’m happy my coaches gave me the opportunity to go out there. And I’ve just got to keep proving myself each week. The team’s counting on me.”

San Diego’s offense line has helped pave the way for the Chargers to average 26 points a contest, ninth in the NFL. The Chargers also have done a better job of protecting Philip Rivers up front, giving up just five sacks through three games.

Last season, Rivers was sacked 49 times, second-most in the league behind Aaron Rodgers.

With Fluker, Rinehart and Dunlap’s availability for this weekend’s game against Dallas uncertain, the Chargers face the very real possibility of rolling out the team’s third different starting offensive line combination in four games.

San Diego played five different starting offensive line combinations in 2012.

“Some guys are getting some tests run today, and doing some things,” McCoy said about the injured offensive linemen. “I’ll meet with the medical staff, because we’ve just got done with the coaching staff. And we’ll meet with the doctors later today.”

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