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Continuity equals stability up front
That’s something the Chargers have done well, averaging 27.8 points per game since 2008 (only the Saints and Patriots have scored more).
Those teams may have something in common.
“The best offensive teams have been able to keep their offensive lines together,” Turner said. “I really believe we’re behind, but those guys will catch up real fast because they have been together and they know each other.”
The guys on the Chargers’ offensive line know each other well.
Kris Dielman, Marcus McNeill and Nick Hardwick enter their sixth season together manning the left side and middle of the line. Toss in Jeromey Clary and Louis Vasquez and the offensive line could play its third-consecutive season opener with the same starting cast.
Tyronne Green, who may compete with Vasquez at right guard, enters his third season as well.
The Chargers re-signed Clary, Brandyn Dombrowski and Scott Mruczkowsi this week, securing eight players that have been with the unit for at least two full seasons. All eight have started multiple games since ’09.
“We have a very, very strong starting five, a unit that’s been together for a long time. And we have guys that have stepped in and helped them when we’ve had injuries,” Turner said.
After the first day of practice Thursday evening, the cohesiveness was already evident.
“The communication amongst everyone is where it needs to be,” Dielman said. “We’re all a little rusty, but you can fix that real quick by getting the communication factor down. That’s something you don’t have on most teams. The fact that Marcus (McNeill), Nick (Hardwick) and myself have been together for six years, we know what everybody is doing before we probably even say it.”
The continuity and steady play of the offensive line will play a big role if San Diego captures its fifth AFC West title in six seasons.
Clary, who signed a four-year contract Friday, played every offensive snap last year. His career took off in 2007 after spending his first season on the practice squad and playing as a reserve in Weeks 1 and 2. Turner inserted Clary into the starting lineup at right tackle for good in early December, and the team went 5-0 during that stretch.
“From a work-ethic standpoint, he’s a guy that can’t be matched,” Hardwick said. “I’ve tried to keep up with him and I just can’t do it.”
Dombrowski will serve an ever-important utility role on the line. He has filled that role admirably, starting the final seven games of ’09 as the Chargers closed out the regular season with 11 straight wins and starting the first five games of last season at left tackle.
Mruczkowski started 13 games at center in 2009 for an injured Nick Hardwick.
Said offensive line coach Hal Hunter: “Offensive linemen are technicians. Our guys are all smart, they’ve got (strong) work ethic and they’re dependable.”