You are here
From Right to Left, Cross-Training Key to O-Line’s Versatility
Chargers News To Your Inbox!
Sign up for the free Chargers email newsletter and stay in the know with all things Bolts.
Imagine you’re in the middle of a test and your teacher asks you to drop your pencil and start writing with the opposite hand. How well could you do it? Would you be able to switch hands on a dime?
Now imagine you’re an offensive lineman having to switch sides of the line mid-game.
Similar to writing, but on a much larger scale, shifting from one side of a line to the other is no simple feat. Switching positions can be an even bigger challenge.
Despite only taking the field for two days during minicamp, members of the Chargers’ offensive line took a crash course in Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris’ philosophy of cross-training positions and sides. By doing this, D’Alessandris is preparing his line for what may arise during the 2015 NFL season while simultaneously increasing their value as players.
From the coach to the players, all parties understand the value of gaining experience out of their comfort zone.
“It’s good for everyone to see (the offense) at different positions,” said center Chris Watt. “We all know what our positions are but it’s good for everyone to try out something different.”
“I enjoy it because it lets me know I’m valuable,” said D.J. Fluker. “If they need me to play guard, I’ll play guard. If it’s left tackle, I’ll play left tackle. I can play anything they put me in. If someone goes down, someone else needs to go in and pick up the slack and not miss a beat.”
Prior to this season, offensive tackle Chris Hairston spent time with D’Alessandris back in 2011 when D’Alessandris was Hairston’s line coach in Buffalo. The swing tackle openly admits the versatility of cross-training has helped him evolve as a player.
“The more you can do to help your team, the more valuable you are to your team,” Hairston said. “It’s just important to always be ready. Sometimes things just happen. I’ve been a part of lines where they were really decimated and I was able to go in at guard or go in on the other side to keep helping the team win.”
Left tackle King Dunlap echoes the importance of his position coach’s philosophy, having spent two years in D’Alessandris’ system.
“It’s just what we do,” Dunlap said. “Joe preaches that and being versatile just helps everybody. That’s one thing we practice because you never know who’s going to get hurt and who’s going to have to play where. It’s always good to be prepared.”
“It’s necessary,” Barksdale said. “You never know what’s going to happen during the season…Things happen. From equipment malfunctions to injuries, things happen so the more you can do the better it is not just for you, but for the team.”
Even those who have been switching sides for multiple years now still admit acclimating to the change takes time and practice.
“It’s sort of like walking forwards then walking backwards,” said Hairston. “In your mind, when you’re going 100 miles per hour playing against elite guys, any misstep will give you bad results. It’s harder than most people think.”
“(Switching sides) is like if you’re right handed but you switch and do everything you do with your left hand the opposite way,” said Dunlap. “It seems easy and we make it look easier than it is. If you’re a right handed person, take one day and do everything you do with your opposite hand. That’s what we have to go through.” Read