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Chargers' Makeshift O-Line Has Been Fine

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Center Nick Hardwick has been the healthiest offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers this season. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Center Nick Hardwick has been the healthiest offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers this season. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers have used 11 different offensive linemen this season. The only starter to have played in every game is center Nick Hardwick.

If one didn’t know any better, it would be safe to assume that quarterback Philip Rivers has made frequent trips to the turf and the running game has hit nothing but the Iron Curtain.

But that hasn’t been the case.

Through seven games, Rivers is off to the best start of his career and has been hit a league-low 18 times (he was the AFC’s most sacked quarterback last season).  Running backs Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, and Ronnie Brown have been stout for all but one of the Chargers’ first seven games (36 yards on 19 attempts against Oakland). Mathews has even crossed the century mark the past two games, something he hasn’t accomplished since 2011.

“We’ve always talked about through the OTAs (Organized Team Activities), minicamp, and training camp, about getting the best five guys,” head coach Mike McCoy said.  “And that’s going to change from week to week because of injuries and things happen during a game. It’s happened a number of times as you already know, this year. It shows that when they believe in what we’re doing and the five guys work together, they’re well-coached.”

Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris could arguably be San Diego’s MVP so far this season. What he’s done with a week-by-week, makeshift offensive line is remarkable.

“He’s a heck of teacher,” Rivers said when asked about D’Alessandris.  “The guys say a lot about his enthusiasm, about how hard he coaches them, but he has a calmness to him on game day in the meeting room that he teaches...”

It’s certainly a message the players have embraced. Despite the myriad of injuries that has plagued the offensive line sine Week 1, no one has hit the panic button.

Four of the five starters have missed at least one game. Left tackle has been manned by King Dunlap, Mike Harris, Nick Becton, Mike Remmers, and D.J. Fluker. And yet, Rivers is staying upright and the Chargers’ offense ranks among the league leaders in nearly every offensive statistic.

“It goes back to Joe D always talking about having five guys up front that play as one,” McCoy said after San Diego’s last game, a 24-6 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 20. “As long as all five of those guys are on the same page then you have a chance.”