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Evaluating the Offensive Line with OL Coach Jeff Davidson

Over the coming weeks, we'll be checking in with the Chargers' position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Offensive Line Coach Jeff Davidson. off, how has your adjustment to a new team been here in San Diego, and what is your assessment of the offensive line as a whole?

Davidson:I've been pleasantly surprised with the way it's gone quite honestly.  We've got a good group of guys, and they've welcomed the way we want to go about business. They have open minds, and are willing to work every day.  That's the main thing I've asked from them, so for me, it's been really easy. is your philosophy on the field, and what do you try to hammer home during practice?

Davidson:We spend a lot of time on technique. It's a huge part of what we do.  If you take one wrong step, typically you will be out of position. So we spend countless hours working on footwork. It all starts with the first step they have to take, hand placement, leverage and all the things that seem to have gotten lost in the game of football a little with offensive line play because you are dealing with so many intricate details outside of technique. But I decided a long time ago I wasn't going to skip that step.  I think we got better each day, and I asked those guys each day to have one thing that they write down in their notebook that says "I am going to get better at this today".  If you have 10 OTAs where somebody got better at 10 different things, the cumulative effect is pretty good. on individual players, let's start with the new guy in the middle -  Matt Slauson.  What have you seen from the center, and what does he bring to the table?

Davidson:Matt came in after we'd already spent a little bit of time with the crew, so he was a little bit behind the curve.  But it's a tremendous benefit to us that he is not only a tough guy, but a smart guy, too. He really understands the game.  I think he's made a fast transition to our system to the point where I'd argue he understands the game better for us than even I do at this point. a terrific 2014 season, King Dunlap will be the first to tell you last year was a nightmare for him with his health and production.  How has the offseason been for our left tackle?

Davidson:It's been good because his mentality and approach has been to improve even though he's been in the league for nine years.  He's being a pro about it, and he knows he isn't where he needs to be. None of us are right now, but he has to find ways to get better each day.  He has taken a hard work ethic this offseason. his second season at right guard, what do you like about D.J. Fluker at that position?

Davidson:I like his enthusiasm. I like the fact that the guy truly loves the game, and it is infectious.  For everybody around him, it makes the game more fun, and that includes myself.  He's a fun guy to coach and is always looking for ways to improve.  He's had a couple situations where he got in trouble with his footwork, but he understands that and has really improved there.  He has bought into it.  He knows he can't have one false step because it puts you behind, so I think he's very much bought into guard and I like the direction he is going. Franklin has said repeatedly he didn't live up to his own expectations.  How has his offseason been?

Davidson:As far as expectations go, we all have high expectations.  If you are not going out there every day trying to find a way to improve, then you are in the wrong business. In my opinion, I think it's good that Orlando has been hard on himself as long as you are not using confidence in there.  I think he is regaining his confidence this offseason, and he has bought into doing what we are trying to teach.  He has found he has more success doing it with technique. does Joe Barksdale fit in at right tackle?

Davidson:Joe is a solid, efficient player. When you watch him practice, there's a reason for it.  The guy is always working on his trade.  There is merit in having a lot of the young guys watching how he prepares.  He is an efficient mover, so he has a lot of the footwork stuff that we've tried to teach.  He does a lot of that stuff already.  Not a lot gets by him.  He's good for the young guys, and works with them a lot after practice, also. have been a lot of questions about Chris Watt as he overcomes his injuries from last year.  After entering 2015 as the starting center, what do you think Chris' role will be in 2016?

Davidson:I don't know right now. Chris is going to have to decide that. And we've had long discussions about that, too.  Nobody's position is etched in stone, including mine. The way we sit in the position room is with the starters in one row.  The other guys are in different rows, and they are all trying to earn that starters row seat.  Chris is in the position of trying to earn that chair again. He'll have to prove it. drafted Max Tuerk in the third round.  How does his skillset translate to the center position?

Davidson:Max has got tremendous quickness.  He is an exceptional athlete inside.  He's a smart guy, and someone I consider to be a true pro.  I've seen the way that he works, and I've watched a lot of film on this guy. I think he will help us on the interior.  I don't want to say that he's a center only.  He is going to have to compete at guard also, but again, he has to earn a spot in that room. also drafted Donavon Clark in the seventh round.  He played pretty much every position at Michigan State, so is that how you envision him here as well?

Davidson:He played guard and tackle in college, but we are playing him at guard here because that is where we think he has the best chance to compete.  Like all these guys, we will give him opportunities to show us what he can do at different positions, but then it is up to them. Hairston showed a lot of toughness last year.  At one point, he brought Philip Rivers to tears with how he gutted through his injuries.  How valuable is Chris as a swing tackle backing up Dunlap and Barksdale?

Davidson:What you said is exactly what I like about Chris; he has the ability to do both. Quite honestly, we played him the most at right tackle in the offseason, and we will swing him back and forth when we come back for training camp.  It's a competition though because Tyreek Burwell is in there as well. Burwell, he mainly played tight end in college so is he someone still adjusting to the offensive line?

Davidson:Tyreek has tremendous feet and is a good athlete.  So for him, it's about how fast he can transition to bring more power to his game. last player I wanted to ask about is Kenny Wiggins, who made the most of his opportunity last year. What do you see in Kenny?

Davidson:I like the versatility.  Like you mentioned with Donavon earlier, I've seen Kenny play tackle and guard, and now we've also seen him play center. He got reps there this offseason because I wanted to see if he was someone we felt comfortable with at all five spots, and so far so good.  But with everyone I talked about, the true test will be when the pads come on. That is when the fun really starts for us as linemen, and guys are going to have to prove and earn a spot here. 

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