Walking a Fine Line

While the Chargers have an inarguable need for aid in the offensive trenches, no one can seem to agree on which current starter should be replaced. While the line has underachieved as a whole, it is hard to point out a single culprit for its disappointing performance. With that in mind, here is a look at last year's starters, highlighting reasons why each should remain a starter, as well as why each should be replaced.

Left Tackle Roman Oben

A veteran of 10 seasons, Oben is the senior member of the offensive line. He has quick feet and keeps himself in excellent condition. Also, he is a steady presence on the ultra-demanding left side, and is a stellar locker room leader.

Still, Oben is undersized at only 305 lbs., and gets by more on finesse and wile than on strength and pure ability. The 33-year-old has seen his best days go by the wayside, and is coming off a serious foot injury.

Left Guard Kris Dielman

During his third season with the team, Dielman finally moved into the starting line-up after Toniu Fonoti was injured and later traded. He had his teammates and coaches raving about him from the start, as his tireless work ethic and feisty play are contagious. A defensive end in college, Dielman is still growing into his position.

Although his versatility is impressive, Dielman has yet to prove dominant at any one position. Also, his inexperience may be a bit disconcerting, as the team's offensive line is long on youth and short on productivity.

Center Nick Hardwick

Since winning the starting job as a rookie two seasons ago, Hardwick has injected the team with a double dose of attitude and aggression. The former wrestler utilizes terrific leverage and body control, and his youth gives him plenty of room for continued improvement.

Hardwick has yet to make it through a 16-game schedule injury free, which may lead to his downfall, as the team greatly values durability. He also lacks bulk, which makes him a liability against the beefy nose tackles prevalent in most 3-4 defenses.

Right Guard Mike Goff

A veteran of seven seasons, Goff is one of the most durable players on the line. He has started every game since joining the Chargers two seasons ago, and has been a superb run blocker and a valuable tutor to the younger players around him.

The knock on Goff has always been that he lacks the foot speed and agility to thrive in pass protection. As he continues to get older, this problem may become even more glaring. With a likely change at quarterback upcoming, quality pass protection will be at a premium in 2006.

Right Tackle Shane Olivea

Arguably the biggest steal of the 2004 draft, Olivea started every game that year as well as 14 more in 2005. He is a tenacious run blocker and is steadily improving in pass protection. Like several of his line mates, his attitude may be his best asset.

There is no doubt that Olivea is good, but it is debatable whether or not he is good enough. He is lacking in height (six-foot-three) and wingspan (31.5 inches), and is missing the athleticism necessary to become an elite tackle.

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