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2016 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

As we near the start of training camp on July 30, we'll preview each position for the San Diego Chargers.  We continue with a look at the Offensive Line. 

The Roster

King Dunlap (LT)–The 6-9, 330-pound left tackle looks to bounce back from an injury-plagued season as he appeared in only seven games in 2015.  He was also only able to finish two of those.  Dunlap aims to revert to his 2014 form, when he was named the Chargers Lineman of the Year.  He allowed only 3.5 sacks that season, which was tied for seventh-fewest in the NFL among tackles who started all 16 games.

Orlando Franklin (LG) –Another lineman looking for better health and fortune in 2016, Franklin missed six games last season after missing only one during his first four years in the league.  The Chargers signed the 6-6, 215-pound veteran to help stabilize the left side of the line.  After injuries prevented that from happening as Dunlap and Franklin played only six games together, watch for the pair to play with renewed determination during training camp.

Matt Slauson (C) –A surprise cut by the Chicago Bears after the draft, the Bolts won the Slauson derby by inking the veteran to a two-year deal in May.  Capable of playing anywhere on the line, Slauson begins training camp as the team's starting center.  He has a good chance of becoming a fan favorite thanks to his grizzled, gritty demeanor on the field.

D.J. Fluker (RG) – The fourth-year veteran felt a world of difference this offseason playing right guard, as he said kicking in from tackle last season was a more difficult adjustment than anticipated.  Watch for a more instinctive Fluker with a more natural feel for the position in 2016.

Joe Barksdale (RT) –The reigning Lineman of the Year, Barksdale was the lone constant last season as the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games.  However, that wasn't the only reason the Chargers re-signed him to a four-year contract this offseason. He was not called for a single holding penalty, and is a popular player in the locker room.

*Max Tuerk (C) - *A number of pundits believe the Bolts got a steal in the third round when they drafted the USC center.  Regarded as a terrific athlete for the position, he spent the majority of the offseason rehabbing from a knee injury that prematurely ended his senior season.  As a result, training camp figures to be the most extensive look yet at Tuerk.

Chris Watt (C)  –It has been a difficult year for Watt as the young center has struggled to stay healthy.  Not only was 2015 a lost season due to a myriad of injuries, but the Notre Dame product missed portions of the offseason as well.   The Chargers are still high on Watt's talent, and he figures to play a valuable role once fully healthy.

Chris Hairston (T) –Like toughness?  Then you have to admire Hairston, whose toughness caused Philip Rivers to tear up last year in Green Bay as he played nearly 100 snaps when few thought he'd be able to play after being hurt the previous week.  Hairston saw extensive time as the first man up off the bench, appearing in all 16 games with 11 starts. 

Kenny Wiggins (G) –Last year's feel good story hopes for a different start to this season.  Out of practice squad eligibility, Wiggins was out of the league for the first week of 2015 as one of the team's final roster cuts.  After he was brought back following Fluker's injury in the season opener, Wiggins proved to be one of the team's most versatile and valuable linemen up front.  Watch for him to once again play all over the line of scrimmage.

*Tyreek Burwell (T) - *San Diego hopes to see a big step forward from Burwell, who flashed as an undrafted free agent last season.  The former tight end has the raw athletic ability to man the position, but lacks the experience and reps.  He figures to get plenty of those at training camp.

Donavon Clark (G)  –While the seventh-round pick out of Michigan State played nearly every position for the Spartans, he exclusively lined up at guard during the offseason.  The 6-4, 315-pounder was named a third-team All-Big Ten player last season with a team-high 83.5 knockdowns.

Trevor Robinson (C) –As a backup center, Robinson has been called upon numerous times over his career in San Diego as injuries have ravaged the position.    In 2014, that meant a pair of late game appearances late in the season as he anchored two memorable fourth-quarter comebacks.  Last season,  Robinson was pressed into duty for nearly the entire season, starting 13 games while appearing in every game.

Tyler Johnstone (T) –Many expected the 6-5, 301-pound Johnstone to be selected in the NFL Draft, but the Bolts were able to sign him as a priority free agent.  The Oregon tackle was named a second-team All-America selection, first-team All-Pac-12 pick and was the team's Outstanding Offensive Lineman as senior last season.

Brett Boyko (T) –The Chargers signed Boyko in early June a couple weeks after he was waived by the Eagles.  He aims to make the 53-man roster after spending all of 2015 on Philadelphia's practice squad.

Mike McQueen (T) –A 6-6, 297-pound product out of Ohio University, McQueen was a third-team All-MAC pick in 2015. He made 28 starts at left tackle and four at left guard over three seasons.

*Vi Teofilo (G) - *The ultimate underdog, the undrafted Teofilo parlayed a rookie camp invitation into a spot on the 90-man roster.  Now, the Arizona State product hopes to prove in training camp he belongs as one of the final 53 men standing.

Spencer Pulley (C)  –Pulley started 41 games at Vanderbilt, including 37-straight to end his career. A three-time selection to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, he served as a team captain for eight games in 2015.

Keep an Eye On…

Ricky Henne: This one is pretty straight forward for me – can the line stay healthy?  It's clear the Chargers remain high on their talent as the vast majority of last year's players are returning despite a difficult season as a whole.  If they are able to remain healthy and succeed together, I believe it will be one of the NFL's feel good stories.  If you are coming out to camp, keep an eye on OL Coach Jeff Davidson.  I really enjoyed watching the new additions to the staff throughout the offseason, and Davidson is one who has already left his imprint on the team.  

Hayley Elwood: Regarding the offensive line, I'm mostly looking forward to seeing how the presumed starting five continue to work together throughout training camp. With Matt Slauson now at center, building a continued rapport on the line will be key to their success as a unit. Camp will also be the showcase for two drafted rookies in Max Tuerk and Donavon Clark to continue to hone their skills in their positions. In addition, it's always interesting to see if any linemen will get practice switching sides or positions at times because grooming versatility is imperative in case injuries or unexpected instances arise in games.

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