Sore Spot

The talk around town still surrounds the San Diego Chargers offensive line. No matter who the team brought in via the draft, the line continues to be ignored and fans are not too happy about it. Sure they have All-World running back LaDainian Tomlinson, but are they setting him up for the unthinkable?

The Chargers' line is they wanted Philip Rivers rather than Eli Manning all along. That's fine, as the Chargers got the young quarterback of their preference.

The Chargers' line about their line isn't as encouraging, as the brass preaches patience.

OK. But while everyone is doing cartwheels over the acquisition of Rivers, the same can't be said when talking a hard look at the big uglies who'll protect them.

San Diego blew out both starting tackles from last year, Vaughn Parker and Damion McIntosh. Also gone are guards Kelvin Garmon, Solomon Page; plus backup center Cory Raymer.

Which means from last year's starting line, only center Jason Ball returns -- and he's coming off a chronic ankle injury.

So what gives? It appears the Chargers will go with Courtney Van Buren, he of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and fresh from an offseason knee surgery. The other tackles? Would you believe a battle between Phil Bogle and a pair of seventh-round picks, Ohio State's Shane Olivea and Miami's Carlos Joseph?

The Chargers know Mike Goff will man one guard spot, with second-round potential bust Toniu Fonoti holding down the other guard position.

Put that picture all together, and it's hardly reassuring.

"Just give us some time," said Buddy Nix, the team's assistant general manager.

Meaning, the Chargers will be eyeballing the June 1 cuts with vengeance. They're banking on some veterans coming free, and with their lack of activity in the free-agent market, they'll have the wherewithal to grab some of them.

Still, it's unsettling knowing that much is invested in Rivers, as well as standout running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and so little is upfront to aid them.

What makes it even more baffling is this is Marty Schottenheimer coached team. He didn't get the moniker "Marty Ball" by not having physical front lines which beat the will out of their rivals.

"You cannot do it all in the draft. You have to go with the quality of players that are there." -- GM A.J. Smith, on the team not selecting a wide receiver, despite the pressing need at the position.


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