TC Battle Preview: Right Tackle

Jeromey Clary looks to enter the upcoming season just where he left off- starting at right tackle. While Clary kicked Shane Olivea out of the spot last season, the addition of L.J. Shelton gives Clary yet another obstacle to conquer. As Clary is pressured to maintain his momentum, the experienced Shelton plans a strong push for playing time.

Jeromey Clary (6'6", 306 pounds) flourished last season, being active in all 16 games and marking six starts. With his intensity and aggression, Clary nudged Shane Olivea out of the starting role, which led to the Olivea's release in February. The Bolts went 5-0 with Clary as a starter, averaging 176 rushing yards per game.

Although pleased with Clary's performance, the Bolts signed former Miami Dolphin L.J. Shelton to a two-year contract. Shelton (6'6", 345 pounds) started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the Dolphins and also has experience at left tackle and guard. Norv Turner recognizes the importance 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," Turner said. "We like our starters, but everyone knows how important we believe it is to have depth. L.J. will provide that."

While Shelton will undoubtedly provide reliable backup in case Clary stumbles, he might be capable of snagging the starting role. Shelton enters his tenth NFL season with 125 starts registered and almost 40 pounds on Clary. He has the extreme impact and knowledge to merit a starting job on the line.

While one will be a dynamite starter and the other a steadfast backup, it is unclear which player will ultimately fill which role. QB Philip Rivers had a passer rating of 93.1 in five games Clary started versus 82.4 during the games Olivea started last season. Clearly, Clary aided Rivers in utilizing the passing game.

While numbers don't lie, they often don't represent the big picture. Shelton aided Dolphins QB Cleo Lemon to a passer rating of 71. While this isn't as impressive the Clary-Rivers numbers, Shelton was attempting to salvage a team that went 1-15.

In four of the five games Clary started, LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for at least 100 yards. Clary is entirely capable of sealing off the edges on the front line, but veteran Shelton has the knowledge and skill to oust Clary if he shows an Olivea-like regression. While the main act will be combated during training camp, the front line has undeniable depth and injury protection.

"Training camp is always intense," Clary said. "A bunch of people are fighting for their jobs. It shows the competitive nature of the business."


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