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Mailbag: Who Emerges as Bolts' Third Down Back?

Q:  Russell Okung will take King Dunlap's spot at left tackle, but who do you see taking D.J. Fluker's place at right guard? –  Ian Weisman

A:  How the Chargers’ offensive line will change in 2017 was a big topic among fans this week, and one that Head Coach Anthony Lynn addressed at the league meeting on Tuesday.  There is an open competition on the interior.  If Spencer Pulley or Max Tuerk emerge at center, Lynn says that could push Matt Slauson to his natural guard position.  One player the head coach didn’t mention but I wouldn’t discount is Kenny Wiggins.  The veteran is capable of playing all five positions up front, and has started at numerous spots over the past few seasons.  How it shakes up along the offensive line will be front of mind over the next few months, and the team could add new names in the draft as well.

Q:  Who will take Danny Woodhead's spot as the receiving third down back with him now with the Baltimore Ravens? – Miika Ravinksy

A:   Danny excelled in passing situations for the Bolts, but one of the most pleasant developments last year was Melvin Gordon’s emergence as an every down back.  While he split times with Woodhead and Branden Oliver as a rookie, Gordon proved he can be relied upon to thrive in all situations a year ago.  That includes the passing game as he caught 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged 10.2 yards per catch, similar to the 9.4 yards per reception Woodhead totaled the year before. Despite missing the final quarter of the season, he finished his 2016 campaign fifth among AFC running backs in receiving yards and eighth in receptions. Equally important, Gordon improved by leaps and bounds in pass protection, which is a must if you want to be on the field in those situations.   In addition, Oliver and newly signed Kenjon Barner have proven deft as receiving options out of the backfield.  This year’s draft is also considered deep at the position, so there is a chance the Bolts go that route as well.  Nonetheless, my eyes are on Gordon to continue to develop as a threat in passing situations and believe he will emerge as a top option.

Q:  Would you consider drafting a young QB in the first round? – Cody Towndrow

A:   Absolutely, because it is my personal belief to draft best player available regardless of position. Basically, there is no scenario I *wouldn’t *consider.  If the Chargers have a quarterback listed as their top player, and he is available seventh, then I am all for them selecting one.  That doesn’t mean Philip Rivers is going anywhere.  He is still at the top of his game and has three more years under contract.  I always remind people of General Manager Tom Telesco’s first draft.  Wide receiver was universally considered the one area the Chargers wouldn’t add to as they had a deep, loaded crop of wideouts. Yet in the third round, they selected a wideout expected to go off the board much earlier.  I’m talking about Keenan Allen, who has proven to be one of the most talented receivers in the NFL.  So, there is nothing I wouldn’t consider when it comes to an NFL Draft.

Q:  The Chargers have been consistently at the bottom of special teams return yardage. How high in the priority list in this year draft is to select a wide receiver slash return man? – Jose Alonso

A:   While I can’t say if it is a priority to select a return man in the draft, it is definitely a priority to improve kickoff and punt returns.  Special Teams Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach George Stewart made it clear when he first arrived that was near the top of his list.  Telesco mentioned the team may use Travis Benjamin back there again, who was one of the best in the league before struggling a year ago.  A better job blocking along with a few tweaks hopefully prove his 2016 was an aberration and he returns to his previous form.  There are also returners such as Branden Oliver and Isaiah Burse who have had success in the past.  Time will tell which player will emerge as the primary returner, but it is definitely a point of emphasis to improve in that area.

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