Success may depend on McNeill

The San Diego Chargers knew that this could be a possiblility but they had hoped to ease a rookie into the role. But injuries have put the process into fast-forward and Marcus McNeill could find himself as the starter on opening day.

It's not exactly how it's drawn up, but it's a possibility: a rookie left tackle protecting a first-year starting quarterback.

That was the look the Chargers presented during numerous reps at the team's opening day at its minicamp. Marcus McNeill, a second-round pick from Auburn, was protecting Philip Rivers' blind side.

The Chargers are hoping they don't have to shove the 6-foot-7, 336-pound McNeill out into the line of fire so soon. They're banking on Roman Oben rebounding from two surgeries on his left foot and that he can resume playing at training camp.

But the reality was -- in June, anyway -- McNeill trying to keep Rivers from being rocked.

And the massive McNeill is approaching this offseason as if he'll trot out with the starters on Sept. 11.

"You definitely don't want to sit back and say this is my red shirt year," McNeill said. "You want to get out there and compete and let the coaches make the decisions."

Even if Oben is fit, McNeill still wants to push him for the starting job. Backup Leander Jordan is also in the mix, but if the Chargers were enamored with him why would they have drafted McNeill?

But while McNeill comes with solid credentials, he knows his to-do list is quite lengthy. At the top of it is improving his pass blocking.

"I'm definitely making real big strides in my pass blocking," McNeil said. "Me and my coaches are constantly working day I and day out on that and I really feel I'm going to get better with that."

The Chargers hope so. Rivers' health might depend on it.


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