SDUT: Fluid O-line playing rock solid

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

By Jay Posner

October 31, 2005

If they had been playing with a puck instead of a football, Shane Olivea would have been credited with an assist.

Instead, he'll have to be satisfied with the usual anonymity afforded an offensive lineman in the NFL – a mention in a newspaper or two and maybe some positive feedback from his position coach and some teammates.

"Even though you're name isn't on the scoreboard or in the press box, little plays like that show up," Olivea said.

In this case, Olivea's "little" play was pretty big. The Chargers were leading Kansas City 21-13 with about 9½ minutes left yesterday when LaDainian Tomlinson fumbled. Several players were around the ball, but only one was wearing a blue jersey.

Fortunately for the Chargers, it was Olivea, their second-year right tackle, who saw the ball come free and pounced on it. On the next play, Drew Brees threw his third touchdown pass of the day to Antonio Gates, and the Chargers were on their way to a critical 28-20 victory.

"I'm just fortunate I kept it alive, and the next play Gatesy makes a great play," Olivea said.

"I'm glad he got it," guard Kris Dielman said of his linemate. "Good god, that could have been ugly.

"But that's just Shane hustling. That's what he does. We all hustle up front, and that's what happens when you hustle."

They're all doing something right. Despite numerous injuries – the latest of which sidelined their leader, left tackle Roman Oben, for the final two quarters yesterday – the Chargers offensive line continues to play well. Yesterday the team threw 44 passes and did not allow a sack. The running game was so-so (3.8-yard average), but as Brees said, "It never is perfect."

Added Brees: "I think those guys have been very resilient the last couple of weeks. They've played so well, obviously through some tough circumstances. When you're shuffling guys in and out on the offensive line . . . I don't think people understand how hard it is throwing another guy in there. But I think that group has really come together."

A year ago the Chargers started the same five players on the offensive line in all but two games, when they were missing center Nick Hardwick. The same group started the first two games this year, at which point Toniu Fonoti (broken hand) was replaced by Dielman. Everything was status quo for three weeks, but then Olivea missed the Oct. 16 game at Oakland.

He returned last week at Philadelphia, but Hardwick was out. Yesterday Hardwick again sat out, and he was joined by Oben, who sprained his left foot.

"We knew that going in this year, we were going to have a tough year, and the first and second backups were going to have to contribute," Olivea said.

They're on their third backup now, with Dielman replacing Fonoti, Bob Hallen taking over for Hardwick and Leander Jordan spelling first Olivea and now Oben, for as long as he might be out. (Oben declined to comment yesterday, saying he wanted to see how his foot would feel today.)

"Anytime you've got to step in for a starter, you know everybody's counting on you," Jordan said, "so you've got to be able to go in there and do an adequate job.

"I just go in there and think about my teammates are counting on me. That's really what motivates me. Any time I get to go in there, I think I've got to play hard for my teammates."

Jordan has been in the league six years but has started only six games. His teammates have confidence in him, however.

"Yeah, I'd like to have Roman in there, but Lee's a good player," Dielman said. "He can go in there and get the job done just as well."