Versatile OL on the Chargers' Radar

San Diego needs help on the offensive line. Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman and Nick Hardwick are contemplating retirement and Jared Gaither and Scott Mruczkowski are set to become free agents. Perhaps the Chargers will cover their bases by drafting a versatile lineman who can fill in at multiple positions. We recently chatted with such a prospect.

Troy offensive lineman James Brown (6 foot 4, 312 lbs.) was a three-year starter at left tackle. He did well at the line's most demanding position, too, earning All-Sun Belt Conference First Team honors as a senior. He graded out at 87.3 percent on the year and led the team with 110 knockdown blocks.

But when Brown arrived at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., the Washington Redskins coaches moved him inside to guard. Brown had not played guard since high school -- even then he was primarily a tackle -- but he looked like a natural. The quick feet and lateral agility he developed as a blindside blocker served him well on the interior.

"I had to adjust a little bit to that," said Brown of the move inside. "But I loved the experience and had fun out there with all the guys."

Asked if the move inside foreshadowed a position change on the next level, Brown offered: "I don't know anything about that. I'm just trying to make a name for myself."

The move to guard was not Brown's only adjustment during Senior Bowl week. The level of competition jumped up several notches. As he noted: "Everybody [on defense] is a great player; that's why they got invited. They have a lot of strength and show you a lot of moves."

The coaching was far different, as well.

"[The coaching] was way different than I'm used to at Troy," he said. "A lot of different terminologies, a lot of different plays."

The experience served Brown well in a couple regards. Firstly, he was able to get his first taste of playing for an NFL coaching staff. Secondly, he was able to pick up some pro-level pointers.

Offensive line coach Chris Foerster worked with Brown on coming out of a three-point stance. It is something he did not do at Troy, but he was comfortable with it by the time he left Mobile.

Brown isn't done working on his technique, either.

"I'm going to keep working on my hands -- that's something I have to work on -- as well as my footwork, strength and explosion," he said.

Brown is projected as a middle-round pick, which puts him right in San Diego's wheelhouse, as A.J. Smith is reluctant to spend high draft picks on offensive linemen. Brown could start as a swing lineman in the mold of Brandyn Dombrowski or Tyronne Green while he tries to work his way up the rotation.

The Chargers know better than most teams you can never have enough depth on the offensive line. And quality backups like Brown are hard to come by ... and even harder to pass up.

Discuss the Senior Bowl and Chargers draft news in the Insiders Draft Talk Forum.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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