Part one of the preview detailing San Diego's personnel at the offensive line will deal with the guard position.
The Chargers boast some of their best "big uglies" at this spot with a multi-Pro Bowl caliber man in Kris Dielman, an interesting position battle on the right side with Kynan Forney and first-year man Louis Vazquez, as well as another rookie, Ben Muth, thrown in for good measure.
Kris Dielman will return for his fourth season as a full-time starter on San Diego's offensive line.
A former Pro Bowler whose strong, bulldozing style has been a fixture for the Chargers since 2003, Dielman has been a big, mostly uncredited contributor to the so far excellent careers of players like LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers.
In 2008, Dielman started 15 games, missing time in Week 12 due to a stomach virus. The Chargers would go on to lose that game.
His work included but was not limited to helping the team set a franchise record in rushing for a single game (289 yards against Denver, Week 17) and being selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
Pros: An incredibly intense player who plays hard on every single down despite what the score and game situation might be, downhill style of blocking plays a factor in opening up running lanes, equally adept for protecting left side of line against pass rushers, very durable despite physicality of position and playing style.
Cons: Not a "whistle to whistle" guy in that he sometimes continues his activity beyond the end of the play, resulting in penalties, discipline can be a factor at times, as was evidenced by his ejection last season for throwing a punch, constantly under referee surveillance for aforementioned behaviors.
Season Outlook: San Diego can expect very few problems out of the left side of their line with Dielman anchoring it in 2009. The 310-pound lineman out of Indiana is a sure bet to keep opposing defenders at bay, giving the backfield peace of mind.
A starter in his time at Atlanta, Kynan Forney was picked up by the Chargers in 2008 and spent the entire season on the sideline, as Mike Goff was the starter.
However, with Goff gone this season, Forney will most likely be the frontrunner for the starting right guard spot, competing with rookie Louis Vazquez. During his tenure with the Falcons, Forney's job was protecting QB Michael Vick in order to set up both the running and passing attacks for that squad.
In 2005, he was a Pro Bowl first-team alternate.
Pros: Athletic, strong physique that handled the rigors of playing half of his games on turf for most of his career, has good speed that allowed him to pull out of the line in order to spread field with blocks for Vick, others in Atlanta, has experience studying San Diego's offensive style.
Cons: Rust may be a factor after spending a whole year away from competition, somewhat injury-prone, has missed significant time in past with shoulder problems.
Season Outlook: Forney has already received a long look from Chargers coaches who've seen him practice for an entire year. It's probably his job to lose, and unless Forney has a drop in performance or Vazquez has a significant spike in the preseason, Kynan will most likely have the job.
Vasquez, San Diego's third-round draft pick in this year's NFL Draft, comes into camp with a viable shot of making the starting lineup in 2009.
The Chargers were impressed with Vasquez's ability to fit into San Diego's scheme as Louis blocked for a strong Texas Tech offense during his tenure in college.
A huge, strong player with a large wingspan, Vasquez did not allow a sack during his junior season in college and played an important part in the Red Raiders rushing offense.
Coming into camp, his main competition will come from Kynan Forney, who sat out 2008 in a Chargers uniform thanks to Mike Goff.
Pros: Excellent footwork, brute strength and speed combine to provide protection on most every down, wingspan and arm strength can deter faster, smaller opponents, familiar with offensive style.
Cons: Will he adapt to oft-quoted "NFL Speed" of play? Needs to learn NFL playbook in order to facilitate transition and challenge Forney.
Season Outlook: The future is bright for Vasquez, and eventually, he is the man slated to take over the right guard spot on San Diego's line. While that may or may not happen this season, look for Vasquez to jump at the first chance he gets to taste the starting lineup.
The rookie out of Stanford comes into the organization as an undrafted free agent. Muth started the final nine games of the 2007 season, filling in after Allen Smith, the regular starter, came down with an injury.
He'll look to impress coaches enough to give him a spot at either guard, or tackle, where he mostly played in college.
Pros: 6'6", 300 pounds. Frame is prototypical of an offensive lineman, filled in nicely in a high-pressure situation in 2007 when filling in for starter, eventually earning him a starting spot later on.
Cons: Not especially fast, a definite project in terms of hands and footwork, may not be ideally suited for the guard position, not a lot of starting experience at the college level.
Season Outlook: Muth is in the same boat as most every other undrafted rookie, it's either impress the staff, or find another job. Look for him during camp and the early preseason.