Training Camp Battle Preview: Backup guard

During training camp this fall, Kris Dielman and Wes Sims will be battling for the job as the top reserve guard. Because each of the team's back-up centers (Scott Mruczkowski, Bob Hallen and David Brandt) can play guard as well, the team will likely keep only one true guard who is a non-starter, and Sims can play tackle.

The Competitors

Kris Dielman:

When the Chargers signed Kris Dielman as an undrafted free agent two years ago, they acquired a versatile player who had experience at defensive tackle, defensive end and tight end. The Chargers greatest need at the time was along the offensive line, so Dielman bulked up and made the switch.

The knock on Dielman is his inexperience, as he has only been playing on the offensive line for two years. Because he receives limited reps as a reserve player it is debatable whether or not he has had enough practice at his latest position to be game ready.

Wes Sims:

Although Sims played left tackle at Oklahoma, he is projected as a guard in the NFL. Sims is an excellent pass protector whose career has been defined by an uncanny amount of consistency.

There will be an adjustment period though, as Sims will have to learn new assignments and adjustments, as well as the other nuances of his new position. Always solid but rarely spectacular, Sims was a sixth-round choice by the Chargers in this year's draft. As we all know, draft picks are hard to cut.

Who Should Win:

This should be Dielman's competition to lose. The greatest knock against him, his inexperience at the position, happens to be a flaw shared by his competitor as well. Also, Dielman was the top reserve last season, and the team would like to keep turnover to a minimum after losing Hudson Houck to Miami.

Keep in mind that the Chargers drafted three offensive linemen, and if each of them makes the team the Chargers would have nearly no experienced back-ups along the line. Barring injury, the Chargers would like to avoid this scenario.

Who Will Win:

This too appears to be Dielman. I would wager that two of the three rookie linemen drafted by the Chargers will make the team, and my guess is that Sims will be the odd man out.

The team would be foolish to go into the season with no veteran reserve along their interior offensive line, and it is a mistake they are not anticipated to make. Sims has a chance to be a good player, but likely not this season.

The Bottom Line:

Dielman will win the job, and will exceed expectations if pressed into duty. In fact, if Toniu Fonoti leaves after the season as a free agent, although not likely given their strong desire to re-sign him, expect Dielman to move into the starting line-up, as opposed to a free agent acquisition or a draft pick.

"You have to be willing to work and work hard if you want the chance to stay in the league," Dielman said knowingly.

Sims will be signed to the practice squad, and will have to bide his time there. Given the high rate of turnover in the NFL, a spot will likely open for him sooner rather than later.

In the meantime he will remain on the practice squad, where he will line up next to Carlos Joseph, one of last year's draft picks. This, of course, only brings A.J. Smith's dream of a three-deep squad one step closer to fruition.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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