Playing left tackle for the San Diego Chargers seems like a road to tragic back issues. First Marcus McNeil’s career is derailed by a degenerative condition, then his replacement Jared Gaither suffers a preseason-long bout of spasms.
The Bolts’ dancing bears are in good company though: the San Diego sportswriters have their own set of back problems.
Abused to the tone of six sacks last week, AJ Smith runs virtually the same uninspiring group of pass protectors out onto the field tonight. The team starts undrafted rookie Mike Harris at left tackle for the third consecutive preseason game tonight. The beating Phillip Rivers took behind center two weeks ago has since scared the Chargers brass into holding him out of live action, for fear Harris and company will let him get pummeled again. You would think the Chargers would do anything to put out this fire.
Don’t look to the San Diego media to sound the alarm.
Scott Bair of the North County Times says the undrafted rookie, Harris, and a decent looking 2012 7th round pick-up, David Molk, “need to be ready” in case they are counted on to start Week 1 against the Raiders. Ready? For Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly? Readiness does not make up for a serious talent gap. Phillip Rivers better be ready to run for his life.
The weak criticism of AJ Smith wouldn’t be so disturbing if we hadn’t been down this road before. Remember 2010? That was the year Marcus McNeil held out until midway through the season. AJ Smith’s response, in the form of Brandyn Dombrowski, played like a back-up, and now doesn’t play much at all.
Luckily for Smith, Gaither fell into his lap when McNeill went down last year.
Smith doesn’t have to let the Chargers suffer this scare a third time. There are insurance policies out there. Alex Barron was cut this week by the Seahawks, and at least brings some experience and the physical tools. The time has definitely arrived to explore those options a bit more thoroughly.
Just don’t expect Smith to respond to his critics in the press. There aren’t any in San Diego.