AJ Smith Struck Gold With LJ Shelton

Looks like AJ Smith has struck gold. Or would the better metaphor be turning water into wine? Smith has once again taken someone overlooked by most and allowed that player to blossom in San Diego.

I don’t know how to describe LJ Shelton’s situation other than unlucky:

Here is a guy who was an Arizona Cardinals first round pick back in ‘99. He held out as a rookie, started only seven games, and then injured his ankle which ended his season. The following year, LJ started 14 games at left tackle and was part of a fairly decent offensive line. For the next five seasons in Arizona, Shelton would go on to start 61 games at left tackle and 9 at right tackle. For all intents and purposes, Shelton was a good player who had done well when healthy. But in six years with the Cardinals, Shelton would only play a full 16 game season two times. Maybe the Cardinals were fed up with Shelton’s inconsistent health?

Shelton was released and went on to start a full season at left tackle for the Cleveland Browns in 2005 and again played well. In 2006, Shelton was a free agent and the Browns wanted to resign him. But the Miami Dolphins presented a better offer so Shelton went down to Florida.

Shelton signed a four year deal with the Dolphins, but struggled to find his place in their offensive line. He bounced from right guard to left tackle and to complicate matters further, he had to learn two new systems; Nick Saban’s followed by Cam Cameron’s. In 2008 the Dolphins were again changing the leadership and as part Bill Parcells’ youth movement, Shelton was released to make way for first overall pick Jake Long.

A month later, AJ Smith and company signed Shelton to a two year deal in a move designed to add some much needed depth at offensive tackle.

Shelton is picking up the Chargers system and is again playing at a high level. He might not make the Pro Bowl, but he is certainly playing at a professional level. He belongs in the NFL and is a starting-caliber tackle for most teams in this league. With Marcus McNeil slowed with injuries this preseason, Shelton is making a name for himself both in practice and on the field. He was near dominant against the Seahawks. Shelton was physical, looked to have good cardio (despite his massive size), and was a force in the run game. Coach Turner talked about it yesterday, and I had been meaning to mention it myself:

One thing that is pleasing is the offensive line in general. But there’s a transition when you go from one team to another; systems are different. Derek Smith is going through it a little bit – he had a gap wrong, we had him backed up and they get an eight yard run that should’ve been a no-gainer. LJ early in camp I think was still struggling a little bit with the change in system terminology and all that. But he had his best game against a very good football player (first round pick Lawrence Jackson); a guy that had given his last two opponents a real tough time. But LJ, I was very impressed with the way he performed and his production in the game. – Norv Turner

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August 27, 2008

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Anonymous said... Aug 27, 2008, 2:50:00 PM

Good pickup, wonder if he starts at right tackle when Marcus comes back?

Anonymous said... Aug 27, 2008, 6:51:00 PM

Yea hes pretty good but what about McNeil is he gonna come back soon????

Anonymous said... Oct 13, 2008, 3:31:00 AM

L.J. is an awesome player. I wish him well. Love watching him as a player...

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