Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Confident D.J. Fluker: 'Year 3: I got it'

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OT D.J. Fluker. (Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports)

D.J. Fluker, whether he stays at tackle or slides inside to guard, has primed himself for a strong season.

Fluker admits his first two years in the league were learning experiences. He allowed six sacks in 2013 and six more in 2014. He was given a pass during his rookie season, as he was adjusting to the pro game and forced to start three games out of position at left tackle. Last year, the amount of pressure he allowed off the edge was more disappointing.

And now?

"Year 3: I got it," he said last week after mini camp practice.

The Louisiana native, drafted No. 11 overall in 2013, has already proven to be one of the better offensive tackles to come out of his draft class.

The 2013 draft kicked off with offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel going to Kansas City and Jacksonville, respectively, and both players have been massive disappointments. No. 4 overall pick Lane Johnson (Philadelphia) has been better, but he was suspended for four games last season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

The reason those players all went ahead of Fluker is they can play left tackle and Fluker, a mauler with limited foot-speed, needs to stay on the right side. Now, the Chargers are toying with the idea of moving Fluker to even less of a premium position: offensive guard.

At 6'5" and 339 pounds, Fluker definitely has the size to play on the inside. While he joked about playing any position that he was asked -- including receiver -- he said the key for him is improving his technique and staying healthy.

"I'm more in shape, focusing on technique, just getting even better," he said.

As for his health, he currently feels better than he did at any point last season. Fluker suffered through a sprained ankle and concussion in 2014.

"Playing hurt, it happens. It's about pushing through it. In this league, you gotta have heart," he said.

No one questions Fluker's heart. He is the emotional leader of the offensive line, with his high energy and trademark train whistles firing up his fellow blockers. He works as hard as any lineman in the league at getting out to the second level and making blocks down the field.

That all-out style of play leaves Fluker more prone to getting nicked up, but he has no intention of changing his approach to the game.

"I'm healthy. You just have to forget about the injuries. It's in the past," he said.

Fluker is now focused on the future, which includes blocking for first-round pick Melvin Gordon. Run blocking is what the right side of San Diego's offensive line does best, no matter if that right side features Fluker at guard and Joe Barksdale at tackle or Johnnie Troutman at guard and Fluker at tackle.

If the Chargers can lean more on their running game in 2015, they will be able to lean on Fluker more than ever before.

Is D.J. Fluker better suited to play tackle or guard? Talk all about it inside our new message boards!

Scott Neinas has worked as a journalist since 1993. He covered the U.S. Hockey National Development Team in Ann Arbor, Mich., and worked as a staff reporter for the Monroe Evening News. Follow him on Twitter: @scott9s.

D.J. Fluker, Joe Barksdale, Johnnie Troutman, Melvin Gordon
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