It's a saying that no longer gets any traction at Chargers Park: what's my line?
The Chargers offensive line has been among the reasons the team has switched from being a doormat to dominant. And there is no indication that will change as the Chargers go for their third AFC West title in the past four years this season.
Baring injuries, the Chargers will trot out the same five-some for the second straight opening day: left tackle Marcus McNeill, left guard Kris Dielman, center Nick Hardwick, right guard Mike Goff and right tackle Shane Olivea.
Hardwick is a Pro Bowler. Dielman was worth a contract in the offseason that guaranteed some $17 million. McNeill was a godsend last year in his rookie season, protecting quarterback Philip Rivers' blind side with the panache of a veteran. Goff is savvy; Olivea, nasty.
When eyeing last year's highest-scoring NFL team, it's easy to focus on NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, on All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, on Rivers. But don't overlook the big uglies up front who allow the others to shine.
But McNeill was up to the challenge, allowing but one or two sacks all season. The pressure of playing for a team that had Super Bowl aspirations didn't hinder the massive, 6-foot-7, 336-pound McNeill, despite playing part of the season with two broken hands.
But the real key for keeping this five-spot on the spot was signing Dielman in the offseason. Dielman was declared the team's top offseason priority, showing how much his skills were appreciated.
When the Seahawks offered a richer deal, the Chargers thought Dielman was gone. But Dielman left more money on the table to return to San Diego. And while many casual fans didn't take a second glance at Dielman's return, others know how his importance to a super-charged offense.
--The Chargers are showing their popularity by exceeding the 60,000 mark in season tickets sold for the upcoming season. It's the most the Chargers have sold in franchise history and they could soon have a waiting list.
--NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, when asked to name his five NFL heroes, included RB LaDainian Tomlinson in his group.
--Training camp for the full squad opens July 28, with the veterans scheduled to report to Chargers Parker the day before. It's obvious to everyone a trip to Arizona and the Super Bowl is the goal. "This is such a good core of people that we all realize what's at stake," RG Mike Goff said.
--The Chargers could explore the possibility of selecting Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver in the supplemental draft. Oliver has decided to forgo his senior year. The Chargers have two returning starters in Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence -- plus, Antonio Cromartie is primed for more playing time. But Florence is a free agent at year's end and will likely be allowed to leave, possibly making Oliver more attractive as a draft pick.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--TE Scott Chandler: 4/129; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Ryon Bingham: ERFA; teams unknown.
--WR Greg Camarillo: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OG Kris Dielman: UFA; $39M/6 yrs, $18M guaranteed.
--WR Malcom Floyd: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Marques Harris: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OT Cory Lekkerkerker: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Shaun Phillips: Potential RFA; 6 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Carlos Polk: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Derreck Robinson: ERFA; terms unknown.
--RB Michael Turner: RFA; $2.35M/1 yr.
--C Cory Withrow: UFA: 3 yrs, terms unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
--LB Donnie Edwards: UFA Chiefs; $13.5M/3 yrs, $7.5M SB.
--LB Steve Foley (released).
--WR Az-Zahir Hakim: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--OT Leander Jordan: UFA Falcons; terms unknown.
--TE Ryan Krause: Not tendered as RFA/Browns; terms unknown.
--WR Keenan McCardell (released).
--TE Aaron Shea (released)