Breaking Down the Bolts: Offensive Line

The offensive line needed attention after Shane Olivea's release and Nick Hardwick's injury, so the Bolts signed new faces to mend gaps and provide depth. While Jeremy Newberry steps over Cory Withrow for the starting role, L.J. Shelton gives the line solid injury protection. The Bolts see a smooth transition as they enter the new season.

Projected Starters

All five starters from last year's playoff run return for another go. OT Jeromey Clary and OT Marcus McNeill will be expected to seal off the edges once again. Clary slid into the starting role for the final five games last season to replace a struggling Shane Olivea.

While the Bolts went 5-0 with Clary in the starting role, Olivea quickly fell out of favor. With the release of Olivea in February, Clary has no obstacles to prevent him from resuming his unyielding duty at right tackle.

After two years and two Pro Bowl appearances, McNeill returns to his starting role at left tackle. McNeill has not missed a start with the Chargers and has aided in opening up lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson to capture consecutive rushing titles. At 6'7" and 336 pounds, McNeill has surprisingly quick feet that allow him to utilize his long arms to ward off defenders.

Kris Dielman made his first Pro Bowl appearance this year after another remarkable year at left guard. He has a fierce and physical style of play that led the Bolts to three games recording more than 200 rushing yards last season. Upon becoming an unrestricted free agent following the 2006 season, Dielman passed on one of the largest contracts ever offered to an offensive lineman and instead gave the Chargers a hometown discount on a six-year deal.

Mike Goff has been a reliable and steady fixture for the Bolts at right guard enters the season with 90 straight starts under his belt. He earned All-NFL honors from USA Today Sports Weekly and was named to USA Today's All-Joe Team last season. Preparing for his 12th season in the NFL, Goff takes hits from all sides and has yet to falter under the pressure.

C Jeremy Newberry
Greg Trott/Getty

Newcomer Jeremy Newberry is expected to start at center as Nick Hardwick sits on the sidelines nursing a foot injury. Preoccupied with a Hardwick's readiness to start the season, the Chargers signed Newberry to a one-year contract to qualm all fears.

After a one-year stint with the Oakland Raiders, Newberry spent his nine previous NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. With over 100 starts in his career, the 6'5", 315-pound veteran will reunite with Norv Turner, as Turner served as the 49ers offensive coordinator in 2006.

Hot Competition

While Jeremy Newberry will slide into Nick Hardwick's slot at center to kick off the season, Hardwick is expected to return to the field shortly thereafter. Newberry helped lead the Oakland Raiders to 2,086 rushing yards last season versus the Chargers' 2,039. His presence will allow Hardwick to pace himself on the road to recovery.

Cory Withrow signed a three-year contract with the Bolts prior to the 2007 season. As if the Chargers anticipated a mishap, Withrow started four games last season due to Hardwick's injury. With the new presence of Newberry, Withrow's service as Hardwick's replacement is getting ushered aside.

Withrow's spot could be in jeopardy once Hardwick returns, although Newberry could serve as the backup guard once that happens.

Fresh Faces

L.J. Shelton signed a two-year contract with the Chargers after spending time with the Miami Dolphins. Currently, Shelton is the top backup tackle and has 125 career starts in his nine NFL seasons. He started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the Dolphins and he has also had experience at left tackle and guard.

With Olivea's release and Hardwick's injury, Shelton provides solid and reliable depth as well as protection if Clary fails to maintain his momentum from last season. Turner recognizes the importance and need for Shelton's name on the roster.

"I've seen L.J. a lot in games coaching against him. He's a really good player and he is going to come in here and compete. We like our starters but everyone knows how important we believe it is to have depth. L.J. will provide that."

The Bolts also addressed the O-line in the draft, burning a seventh-round pick on OT Corey Clark of Texas A&M. While Clark will need to amp up his intensity if he wants to move his name up from the practice squad, he has solid experience as a three-year starter in the Big 12. He has the versatility to play either right or left tackle.

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