One of the biggest issues the San Diego Chargers face on offense is the ability to establish the running game. While many pundits and fans alike point to Ladainian Tomlinson's age and durability as the main reason behind the Chargers' ground game struggles, I'd like to reiterate that the problems start first with the offensive line. One of the biggest hurdles the Chargers have had to deal with is the injuries that their Pro Bowl Center Nick Hardwick has had over the course of his career.
(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)
As the leader of the offensive line, Nick Hardwick has a tremendous effect on the play of the group, and when he is not in that line up, the blocking calls and assignments can break down due to communication errors and confusion. Hardwick is a team leader and an example to his teammates, but he has missed a significant number of games in his career. Should the Chargers be concerned about their Pro Bowl Center's long-term health, or are these injuries an accepted part of the profession?
Hardwick has only had one season where he missed no time, and that was in 2006. Other than his healthy year of 2006, Hardwick has missed 2 to 4 games each season. After injuring his foot in Week One of the 2009 season, Hardwick has so far missed five of the six games the Chargers have played. For his career, Nick Hardwick has missed 17 games in 7 seasons. Hardwick is expected to be out until December, which would bring his total missed games to a whopping 22 games in his career.
As a Hardwick fan myself, I don't like not having Hardwick suited up and on the field for gamedays. The Chargers don't have solid backup Center either, and haven't had one for years. Much like the defensive tackle position, the Chargers felt pretty secure at Center and haven't made much effort in fortifying the position with talented players. The Chargers added Cory Withrow and Jeremy Newberry (neither of whom are still in the league) to help stop the bleeding a couple years ago, and this year they've used Scott Mruczkowski and Dennis Norman at center to help offer some depth. But the fact of the matter is, when Hardwick is not in the game there is a huge drop-off and at one of the most crucial positions on the line, it's unsettling that the Chargers haven't done more to prepare for life without Hardwick.
What's your take on the center situation? Should the Chargers be concerned with Hardwick's ability to stay healthy? Should they have done more to address the depth at the position? Do the Chargers need to strongly consider drafting someone to push Hardwick? Or are Hardwick's injuries an acceptable part of the profession, and something that Chargers will just have to put up with? Drop a comment below and give us your thoughts!
Labels: Offensive Line
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