Free Agency

Johnnie Troutman: Re-Sign or Reboot?


When Johnnie Troutman battled his way into the starting lineup, he did more than take over Jeromey Clary’s position at right guard … he took over Clary’s status as San Diego’s favorite whipping boy.

It’s easy to see where some of the criticism originated. A 2012 fifth-round pick, Troutman first cracked the rotation in 2013, when he earned nine starts and nearly as many penalties (eight, including six false starts). After appearing exclusively at left guard during the regular season, he took over for an injured Clary at right guard in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and was exposed by Denver’s dominant defensive front (although, as we saw in Super Bowl 50, he is hardly the only lineman to be victimized by the new Orange Crush).

Troutman returned as the starting right guard in 2014 and started the first 15 games of the season, although he was often used in a rotation with Chris Watt that, in hindsight, appears to have hindered the development of both players. Troutman allowed 3.5 sacks in 2014, but earned an impressive 95.3 bass blocking efficiency rating from Pro Football Focus. He injured his knee in Week 16 and was placed on injured-reserve, forcing him to miss the season finale in Kansas City (a game that cost the Chargers a return trip to the playoffs).

Despite his progress, fans clamored for Troutman to be replaced. They got their wish last offseason, when the addition of RT Joe Barksdale allowed the Chargers to move 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker inside to Troutman’s right guard position. Troutman still figured stick around and provide valuable depth, but he broke his arm in a preseason win over the Cowboys and missed the entire season as a result.

I’m not one for excuses, but Troutman, 28, certainly has some good ones if he wants to use them. He was coming along nicely in 2013 (essentially his rookie season after he missed his actual rookie year with a pectoral injury) until he was forced to play out of position in the biggest game of the season. I said from the start it was a mistake to play Troutman next to another green blocker (Fluker) in such a high-stakes game, but the Chargers thought they knew better.

The next season, Troutman was never able to get into any kind of rhythm. Not only was he rotating with Watt, but he saw five different starting centers flank him to the left.

So, while we can comfortably say Troutman will never be a Pro Bowl guard, I don’t think we can comfortably say just how high his ceiling might be … not yet, anyway.

Remember, this is a player who started three years at left guard at Penn State and didn’t allow a single sack. This is a guy who’s a throwback run blocker, capable of pulling effectively and making blocks on the second level (a sight for Melvin Gordon’s sore eyes).

Again, I am not trying to make out Troutman to be more than he is, nor am I recommending the Chargers re-sign him to be a starting guard. However, not even the staunchest of critics can pretend the Chargers have a better backup guard option on the roster right now.

Troutman has NFL experience (29 games played, including 24 starts) and is comfortable working in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense from their time together in 2013. Yes, there are concerns about his injury history (he has ended three of his four seasons on injured-reserve) and lack of consistency, but given the circumstances, I think it makes a lot of sense to try to bring him back on a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of two years and $3 million.

For more on our “Re-Sign or Reboot?” series, join the discussion inside our Fan Forums!

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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