Thursday, December 5, 2013
Johnnie Troutman's development on hold
By Eric D. Williams
SAN DIEGO -- Playing extensively for the first time in his NFL career, San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman expectedly has had his share of bumps in the road.
A fifth-round pick out of Penn State by San Diego in 2012, Troutman did not play his rookie season because of a torn pectoral injury he suffered before the draft. Thrust into a starting role at left guard after Chard Rinehart suffered a serious toe injury against Philadelphia, Troutman's played through injuries in starting nine games for the Chargers.
But Troutman could be headed back to the bench. With left tackle King Dunlap (neck) a full participant for a second straight day, head coach Mike McCoy could go back to the team's projected starting offensive line that has not been used since Week 3 of the regular season against the Eagles -- Dunlap at left tackle, Rinehart at left guard, Nick Hardwick at center, Jeromey Clary at right guard and D.J. Fluker at right tackle.
"I prepare myself every week like I'm going to go out there and play," Troutman said. "Even though I might not be getting the first-team reps, you've got to go out there with the mindset that you're going to get out there and play. If you don't, then you won't be prepared."
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt likes the progress Troutman has made this season.
"I think Johnnie's done a good job," Whisenhunt said. "He's grown into the position, which is important. We didn't know a lot about Johnnie coming in here. We knew essentially, this was like his rookie year and he got thrust in to playing probably a lot quicker than we anticipated. You've got to give him credit. He's handled it well."
McCoy directed some pointed comments toward Troutman for a personal foul penalty he was baited into by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict after a 48-yard field goal by Nick Novak late in the game against the Bengals. San Diego had to take the 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff, which allowed Cincinnati to get better field position on the return.
"It's something that whether you get baited to or not it's unacceptable," McCoy said. "That's what I told him instantly after the play happened. I'm sure you all saw that. After the game, talking to the team it's something that we can't accept. You don't want any unsportsmanlike conducts. That's going to happen from time to time. In a critical time, it was the worst time possible to have that happen."
Troutman leads the team with eight accepted penalties for 55 yards, including six false starts.
"I don't feel like my penalties have been an issue," Troutman said. "Early on I got a couple false starts, but there's just a lot of stuff going on out there early when you first get out there, and with the speed of the game you get a little anxious. Last week I got that little cheap thing. But for the most part I think I've played inside the guidelines of the game."
With the Chargers at 5-7 and still in the playoff hunt, McCoy is tasked with putting the best team out on the field that can win right now. But he also has to make sure younger players like Troutman continue to develop within the organization.
Eight of San Diego's 22 starters are doing so for the first time in their pro careers this season. The NFL is a bottom-line business, so wins matter. But in the first year of general manager Tom Telesco and McCoy's rebuilding effort, the duo also has to determine which players will be part of the team's ability to create sustainable success long term.
For now, McCoy says he's focused on beating his team's next opponent, the Giants
"It's all about winning," McCoy said. "Through experience and repetition you'll get better at anything. But we haven't done that all year long [focused on developing players]. We're not going to start that now.
"It's a matter of doing whatever you can to win. And I think the more people play, the better they're going to be over time. But you don't go into a game saying we're going to develop this player."
Which means the development of young players like Troutman could be put on hold.
"Every week we're going to try to play the best five, whoever we think those best five guys are," McCoy said. "Sometimes it takes a week of practice to determine who those guys are and how the health of your football team is. We'll make that decision this week also."