Perhaps no unit underwent a more drastic transformation from the previous season than the offensive line. The result was the creation of a unit that gave up the fourth fewest sacks in the NFL (30) while paving the way for Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead to have career seasons.
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The anchor in the middle was Nick Hardwick, who was the only member to return in his original spot in 2013. In his 10th season, the center also played the most snaps of any lineman and has started 66 straight regular season games and 135 for his career. Hardwick is one of the most cerebral players in the game, and as such is responsible for calling out blocking schemes up front.
Jeromey Clary was the other returning starter, but this time he kicked in from his usual tackle position to guard. The transition was relatively seamless for the seven year veteran, who embraced the coaching staff’s decision to move him to right guard, a position he’d never played save for a handful of snaps back in 2007. Still, Clary was there to move to his old right tackle spot for three games when injuries shuffled the deck.
Moving into the right tackle position was first round draft choice D.J. Fluker. The 6-6, 339-pounder impressed his teammates, coaches and fans alike with his demeanor on and off the field. A testament to his character, he took on the monumental task of playing left tackle in five games, including three starts. It was a position he hadn’t played since high school. Fluker earned Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week honors in a Week 7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars when he first took snaps protecting the blindside.
Fluker moved to left tackle due to injuries suffered by King Dunlap. Still, Dunlap was healthy for the majority of the season and proved to be a terrific free agent addition for the Bolts. The 6-9, 330-pounder appeared in and started 11 games, all at left tackle, and was a stabilizing force during the Chargers five-game winning streak.
Another free agent starting acquisition was left guard Chad Rinehart. The six year veteran appeared in 11 games with 10 starts. Even battling an injury midway through the year, he still performed admirably in his first year in San Diego.
Due to Rinehart’s injury, Johnnie Troutman got to see a significant amount of playing time in 2013. A fifth round pick in 2012, he missed the entire season with a pectoral injury suffered while working out for the draft. In his first true season, Troutman saw action in 14 games starting nine of those. . He also started in the Divisional Round against the Denver Broncos after Clary was felled with an injury.
Another key reserve was Rich Ohrnberger, who appeared in 13 games with one start. Most notably, he stepped in seamlessly in the Wild Card win over the Cincinnati Bengals after Nick Hardwick was forced to leave early in the first quarter with a stinger and a concussion. Ohrnberger earned kudos from his teammates for what was arguably his finest performance as a pro.
Others who saw action on the line for the Bolts included Mike Harris, who was lost for the season with an ankle injury suffered in Week 5, Steve Schilling and Willie Smith. Kenny Wiggins also finished the year on the roster.