With Nick Hardwick now back from his ankle injury, the Chargers plan to begin the playoffs with the same starting offensive line they used in the season-opener, only replacing Clary with veteran Jon Runyan. Now that Runyan is fully recovered from microfracture knee surgery and has had a few weeks to work his way into the lineup, many people would consider that trade-out an upgrade.
The Chargers are deeper on the offensive line, as well, thanks to the playing time accumulated by first-year OT Brandyn Dombrowski and rookie OG Tyronne Green.
"Our offensive line and our backs do such a good job in protection. They give Philip [Rivers] a chance to do what he does," Norv Turner said.
DL Travis Johnson
Also, the defensive line depth is increased by the maturation of rookie Vaughn Martin, whose role has increased with each passing week, and the addition of Antonio Garay, who made his debut on Friday.
The Chargers will start the playoffs with a five-player rotation of Luis Castillo, Ian Scott, Cesaire, Johnson and Alfonso Boone. Those five players average more than 6.5 years experience and 45 starts, comprising one of the more established units in the league.
"When all three phases are playing together, we're pretty good," Rivers said.
The defensive line still needs to do a better job of shutting down the run, but the Chargers might catch a break in that department come playoff time. Of the top-five running offenses in the AFC, only one of them would be in the postseason if the season ended today. That would be the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that lost to the Chargers in Week 15 when Cedric Benson was limited to 53 yards rushing.
The only team seeded higher than the Chargers in the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts, has the lowest-ranked rushing offense in the league.
Will the Chargers' lines get it done in the playoffs? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.