Chargers Review: Offensive Tackle

When role call came at the beginning of the season, many tabbed the San Diego Chargers' offensive line on par with that of the New York Giants, pitiful. Oh ye of little faith in now former line coach Hudson Houck. Five men who had never shared the same battleground came together and produced a fine season in the trenches and one that brings optimism for the future.

It started on the edge for the Chargers. In training camp, the Bolts acquired Roman Oben from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to solidify the line. When experimentation left him on the right side, many questioned the move.

Courtney Van Buren, prior to injury, was seeing work on the left side and performing adequately. At the time, Van Buren was happy to be getting looks at both sides. "Obviously they think I am versatile to play both sides so I am glad about that."

Unfortunately for the tackle, he would end up on injured reserve with a knee injury.

That opened a door for Shane Olivea at right tackle and pushed Oben back to his left tackle position. And boy did that work out quite well.

Oben became the leader of the offensive line and was a steady rock at the left tackle position.

"It goes with the territory," Oben said of his leadership skills. "You take it slowly, but something inside of you urges you to speak up.

His pass protection was far beyond what many expected and he did a solid job in generating push in the running game.

Oben attributes the success to the entire line and its ability to play as a unit rather than each man for themselves. His desire for success and experience filtered down to the rest of the group.

"You just have to have communication with the guys playing next to you," Oben said. "Coaches prepare a good gameplan for us and it is up to us to execute."

His one downfall was his inability to pull effectively. Oben was at his best when he manned-up his opponent but in space he was not as effective. That led to an offense that rarely used the screen pass and did not run to the edge.

The left tackle position was a barren hole before Oben came in to shore it up and his contributions were paramount to the success of the Chargers.

"Roman Oben has been terrific for us," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Olivea, meanwhile, earned praise for his feisty play and hustle at the right tackle spot. The lowest drafted player to earn a starting nod, Olivea never let go of his stranglehold on the position.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson fondly recalls a moment during the Chargers game against Denver when the division was still in question.

"Shane surprised me, in the locker room at halftime he started yelling, ‘come on guys. Thirty more minutes, we have to be passionate about this. This is for the Championship. Just think about it.' This is a rookie talking. Everybody listened too."

Each week it seemed that Olivea had a new threat to diffuse. And each week the competition level of the player he faced went up. Olivea shut out players such as Charles Grant, Patrick Kearney and Robert Mathis.

After shutting out Grant, Olivea quipped, "I let him know he wasn't getting his eight and half sack off me."

Those three players alone combined for 35.5 sacks on the year and each was held at bay when they played against Olivea.

Dwight Freeney, the NFL's leading sack artist, was one of the few that made it through the rookie's path.

Olivea also held his own in the running game. He isn't fluid playing in space but was a monster at the point of attack. He also gave his all until the whistle blew, a trait that endeared him to coach Schottenheimer.

"We are looking forward to building on this," Olivea said.

Neither starter at right or left tackle missed a game and that meant little time for backup Leander Jordan. He was seen so sparingly that many don't even remember he was a part of the team.

Jordan didn't see any action through the first half of the season and was used sparingly the rest of the way. His most extensive action came in the finale against Kansas City but he did not distinguish himself.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net


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