SAN DIEGO – The play is etched in D.J. Fluker’s memory.
Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones drive-blocking Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker into the end zone on a long run by Shaun Alexander in the 2005 NFC Championship Game was a signature moment in Jones' Hall of Fame NFL career (check out the play at the end of the video here). It's the type of effort Fluker strives for on the field.
“I remember seeing that play and thinking, ‘That dude is a beast,’” Fluker said. “And that’s how I want to play. I want to finish people.
“My coach (at Alabama) always compared me to Flozell Adams because he’s a big, physical man. But I also watched a lot of left tackles, too. I think Walter Jones was one of the greats, along with Jonathan Ogden and guys like that. I love the way they play. They play the game with a nasty mentality, just not having that fear of maybe getting beat and being able to go out there and play hard every snap.”
Fluker has the nasty part down. Selected No. 11 overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2013 draft, Fluker earned a reputation for physical play with a mean streak in his rookie season, with plays such as this as evidence.
Fluker started 15 games, ably filling in at left tackle for three games in place of an injured King Dunlap. Known as a physical run blocker, Fluker helped pave the way for Ryan Mathews’ second career 1,000-yard season. And Fluker’s pass protection on the edge led to a resurgent 2013 for quarterback Philip Rivers.
Fluker also showed toughness, playing through a nagging knee injury at the end of the season. He missed one game in 2013 with a concussion, with Mike Harris replacing him in the lineup in a Week 3 contest at Tennessee at right tackle.
While Fluker showed promise as a run blocker, if he wants to play at the level of Jones and Ogden, he still needs to improve as a pass protector for Rivers. Fluker said one of the things he’s working on during the offseason is improving his hand placement and footwork in pass protection.
“I want to be best,” Fluker said. “What I’m trying to improve as a player is my pass-pro. It’s gotten better. I’ve seen an improvement during camp from doing boxing, and using my feet really quick on rapid feet and being able to do all of those drills. It’s been paying off.”
By taking up boxing, Fluker said his punch is a lot stronger as well, which has translated into slowing down defenders in passing situations with better hand placement.
“My hands are weapons now,” Fluker joked. “I thought it was fun, and I caught on really quick. I enjoy it.”
Fluker also said he’s been working on not getting beaten inside in passing situations by stopping defenders from crossing his face.
“I’ve learned to pick it up, but I still have to get faster at it,” Fluker said. “So I’m working at all of the things that I was deficient in, and I’m working to improve all of those areas.”