COSTA MESA – The Chargers have been faced with the crushing reality that All-Pro left tackle Rashawn Slater will head to injured reserve and miss the rest of this season as he undergoes surgery to his ruptured biceps tendon suffered in Sunday's Week 3 loss.
In configuring the plan for what the team would do at left tackle moving forward, they had a couple different options they could resort to.
After much thought, Chargers coach Brandon Staley announced Wednesday that they're going with rookie sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer to start at left tackle in place of the injured Slater.
Earlier this week on Monday, after confirming that Slater's season would be cut short, Staley said he wanted to limit the amount of moving pieces across the offensive line when coming to grips on who the team's new starting left tackle would be. By inserting Salyer, who was the swing guard to begin the season, that minimizes an offensive line shakeup.
“What we’re trying to do is keep the sides the same, trying to keep continuity of right side and left side," Staley said on the decision to roll with Salyer at left tackle.
Salyer, who's taken most of his reps at guard during practices open to the media throughout OTAs and training camp, gets the nod over Storm Norton, who filled in on Sunday against the Jaguars when Slater went down in the third quarter.
During training camp, Norton competed alongside Trey Pipkins in a position battle for the right tackle spot throughout the summer. Ultimately, Pipkins won out, and when Norton was called upon last week, things didn’t go favorably as he allowed eight pressures across 23 pass-blocking snaps, according to the metics of Pro Football Focus.
"Jamaree is earning this opportunity. Coming out of training camp, that was what we felt had happened, and then Storm had an opportunity to play. Now, through three games, we feel that we have some evidence that we have to make a change," Staley said of the choice to see Salyer slot in over Norton. "That’s what we’re doing, we’re making a change to put the best five guys, that we feel like, give us a chance."
For Salyer, he'll move away from guard and revert back to a position he played the last two years during his time at Georgia, serving as the blind side protector for the Bulldogs' National Championship team.
In Salyer's final two years in the college ranks at left tackle, he allowed just one sack and posted a pass-blocking grade of 86.8, according to Pro Football Focus.
"That was the position he played in college. For us, right now, we feel like that’s the best option for us going into this game plan, knowing that we have Storm Norton as a swing guy and knowing that Trey and Matt [Feiler] have played tackle," Staley said. "We’re going to try and attack this week, heading into the game that way, and we’re excited about that. Jamaree has done a really good job during training camp. He has stayed ready. He’s going to be ready for his opportunity.”
As Salyer moves back to his natural position, he shared Wednesday that he's been picking Slater's brain about technique and tips ahead of making his first NFL start on Sunday.
Salyer said while most of his reps in team drills have come at guard, he's spent time after practice working the the fundamentals of playing tackle in the event that an opportunity like this would present itself.
"I've been kind of waiting to go so when they gave me the opportunity, I was excited," Salyer said. "I never knew what position it was going to be just because I can play all five positions, but I was always ready to go."
As someone who knows the fundamentals and assignments of playing the interior positions, Salyer believes that will benefit him working alongside left guard Matt Feiler.
"I think it's really huge," Salyer said of his knowledge of knowing Feiler's role while playing next to him. "Honestly, just kind of knowing what everybody else has to do or knowing his responsibility, know where his eyes are, what he's looking for, I think it's really huge to my benefit because it allows me to set a certain way."
Salyer described the biggest differences of playing tackle rather than guard have to do with spacing and the body type of the rushers off the edge compared to those on the inside.
"Inside, you'll get a 300-pound guy, outside, you'll get a 250-pound guy with different moves, a different level of experience out there," Salyer said. "It's just a different type of game when it comes to that standpoint."
Salyer's first test will come against a Texans' edge-rushing group that's made up of Jonathan Greenard and Jerry Hughes, who've totaled 5.5 sacks collectively through three weeks.
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- What Options do the Chargers Have at Left Tackle With Rashawn Slater Out for the Season?
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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.