Inside Scouting Report: Center Eric Ghiaciuc

The San Diego Chargers made their latest dip into the free agent pool on Tuesday when they picked up veteran center Eric Ghiaciuc to replace the injured Scott Mruczkowski. To learn more about the former Bengals center, we solicit a full scouting report from Bengals Insider publisher Marc Hardin.

Eric Ghiaciuc entered the league in 2005 as a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. He started 42 of 48 games for Cincinnati before moving on as a free agent last offseason to join the Kansas City Chiefs. However, things didn't work out in Kansas City, as Ghiaciuc was released at the end of training camp.

The Chargers picked him up on Tuesday after placing center Scott Mruczkowski on injured-reserve with an ankle injury. With Mruczkowski down and Nick Hardwick still rounding into form following an ankle injured in the season-opener, San Diego was dangerously thin at the hub position. The team's other centers are nine-year veteran Dennis Norman -- who like Ghiaciuc was acquired during the season -- and rookie Tyronne Green, who is more comfortable at guard.

What can Ghiaciuc bring to the rotation? To find out, we turn things over the Bengals Insider publisher Marc Hardin.

Eric Ghiaciuc was an enigma during his four years in Cincinnati. He was a 2005 mid-draft selection out of Central Michigan and regarded as a smart, athletic center. But critics said he struggled too much when it came to calling out the right blocking schemes and had just average foot quickness and lateral movement in pass protection at a time when the Bengals were really slinging it with Carson Palmer. Ghiaciuc also struggled trying to pick up blitzes and he often was overmatched by big nose tackles who were able to push Ghiaciuc off his mark, which created openings for gap rushers.

These were glaring weaknesses in the physical AFC North, where quality nose tackles have been common and where Dick LeBeau's aggressive and deceptive blitz packages for Pittsburgh always seemed to overwhelm Ghiaciuc when the bitter rivals met twice a year. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns followed the blueprint: Disguise blitzes against the Bengals and bull-rush Ghiaciuc. Suddenly, he was a liability in all six division games; nearly 40 percent of the schedule, at least.

Though Ghiaciuc started 16 games at center for the first time in 2008 -- a testimony to good health, which had been a minor problem up until then -- all that exposure against the rest of the league emboldened the Bengals with the belief that he was, at 6-4 and a soft 300 pounds, just too small for the power running attack Marvin Lewis wanted to go back to this season after the team relied too much on the passing game for three years. So the Bengals chose not to re-sign Ghiaciuc after his rookie contract expired following the conclusion of last season. Since then, Ghiaciuc hasn't been able to stick with the Kansas City Chiefs after a brief trial.

Though Ghiaciuc, 28, isn't a lost cause, he apparently has yet to become strong enough in the lower body to maintain leverage against large defensive linemen, and it wouldn't hurt if he gained explosion in his upper body so he simply isn't thrown to the side. As a fill-in, the Chargers could do worse than a guy who has started 42 of 48 games in the league. There's some valuable experience there, but he's better suited in zone-blocking schemes so his lack of one-on-one skills aren't fully exposed.

There's a reason why Ghiaciuc hasn't stuck with an NFL team this season. He's not big enough nor strong enough to do his job well against quality defensive linemen, especially when operating in passing schemes. Instead of providing quality pass protection, he puts the quarterback at risk. If he gets on the field, the Chargers might be able to run behind Ghiaciuc to some extent, but close your eyes when Philip Rivers drops back to pass.

How do you see Ghiaciuc contributing this season? Discuss in the message boards.

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