Practice and Page

I should have seen it. The signs were all there, but the word was mum in the days leading up to it. I watched Toniu Fonoti switch to left guard from his slot on the right side. Yet I failed to realize it meant something more than what the cards showed. It meant the eventual signing of Solomon Page by the San Diego Chargers. A move that came just days ago, but as OTA's have told us, it means a heck of a lot.

Solomon Page officially became a Charger on June 5th, 2003. Long before that, ominous signs pointed towards his arrival.

The process started before the Draft when Page had outrageous contract demands. At the time the Chargers balked and decided to see what they had from the crop of undrafted picks. One noticeable thing was the lack of true guards on the roster.

Most of the UDFA's brought in played tackle in college. Were any of them expected to make the transition? Perhaps Phil Bogle was. He spent time at guard in front of scouts, but he has seen his college days spent at the tackle position. Of course we get a little giddy about him when he states, "I don't know why, but I'd rather block Warren Sapp than Simeon Rice. I think Warren would get tired before Simeon because the inside guys get worn down quicker." Now he is even listed as a guard, but he has yet to make the team.

Fonoti is penciled in as a starter, but now he has switched sides and it appears there is a reason.

Kelvin Garmon may be the most displeased with the signing of his former teammate. Garmon has switched to right guard, getting plenty of reps during practice. What stands out, as it did last season, is Garmon is not an effective pass blocker and has trouble getting out of his stance on pulls and in pass protection. That leaves Page possibly starting there come the start of the season.

At the tackles, Vaughn Parker and Damion McIntosh appear to have there slots nailed down. Why is this so?

McIntosh signed a one year deal and is an up and coming tackle. He is headed towards unrestricted free agency and protects the blindside of Brees effectively. It is no surprise Courtney Van Buren was chosen this year in the draft. He is already the heir apparent at left tackle and listed that way in ink on the depth chart.

Vaughn Parker is a wily veteran who knows the nuances of both tackle spots. In recent years he has cemented himself at the right tackle spot and been effective in that role. He is equally effective run blocking as he is in pass protection. Plus he is signed for two more years at over $3 million. With the possibility of McIntosh leaving at the end of 2003 the elder statesman will stay on and teach.

So the weakest link must be looked at and that leads us back to Garmon. Page spent the entire 200 season playing guard in Dallas. Plus he spent five games at right guard last season. As he said, ""I don't ride the pine and I don't sit the bench – that's not me."

Now Page reunites with Offensive Line Coach Hudson Houck. Page had a trying year last season after three successful campaigns in Dallas. He is out to prove he still has a fire to play.

Back on topic, why the sudden desire to bring in Page? AJ Smith went so far as to call his signing, "a priority". Once Fonoti was switched to the left side exclusively in camp, the numbers just needed to be worked out. Carolina and Green Bay were close to making serious pitches for his services and Smith was pressed into action.

Garmon was his usual in camp. Several times he was slow in getting to his blocks on the outside. That would mean the potential for a linebacker to cut down LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield as Garmon is not there to seal off the outside for LT to run through the hole.

As we mentioned earlier, with him slow to get up out of his stance, faster tackles can exploit that weakness. Imagine Garmon rising like a zombie to make his block in pass protection and a speedy defensive end is up already putting a hand on the helmet of Garmon to keep his leverage down and swooping past him to pressure Drew Brees. The result is Brees does not have his safety pocket to step up into and is forced to scramble outside where he is not nearly as effective.

It has already been seen in OTA's. At first I wondered how Tim Love got so quickly into the backfield, and then I realized he was matched up versus Garmon and it became clear, the left guard spot needed to be upgraded. A quick recheck of my notes shows pressure coming from the middle on plays and not much coming from anywhere else. Jamal Williams and Jason Fisk are on record with good pressure. Fisk beat his man to the inside on the play. I don't have to say who that man was.

So the move had merit, and Page will be starting at right guard for the Chargers this season. Of course I missed signs before and maybe my signals are just crossed and I need to go back to the huddle.

Denis Savage can be reached at or via the following link: Denis Savage

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