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The debut of the rookie blindside

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Blue Bolt
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    Harris to receive lengthy work; Bell may get reps, too, before Henderson
    Written by Michael Gehlken

    It won't be Jared Gaither starting at left tackle for the Chargers on Thursday night.

    It won't be Brandyn Dombrowski. It won't be Marcus McNeill.

    Protecting the blind side of the Chargers' quarterbacks, it'll likely first be an undrafted rookie followed by another undrafted rookie followed by a veteran playing his first NFL game in 19 months.

    It will be interesting.

    Michael Harris, of UCLA, will start the team's preseason opener against the Packers, which kicks off at 5 p.m. He is expected to stay in the game longer than any other Chargers offensive starter, as the team gets an extensive look at arguably their offseason's most pleasant surprise.

    Cordell Bell may be next to take over, having seen second-team reps in practice at left tackle. And when the Division II prospect from Minnesota State-Mankato wraps up, swing tackle Mario Henderson will likely work at left tackle after some reps already on the right.

    "I won't lie and say that I'm not anxious and nervous because I am," Harris said. "The Green Bay Packers are guys that I've grown up watching. I just want to go out there and do my best and just kick some butt."

    Harris' early college years foreshadowed his time in San Diego.

    At UCLA, he was twice named the Bruins' most improved offensive player. With the Chargers, his strides since rookie training camp have been dramatic.

    Tell the team in May it'd be starting a left tackle in its preseason opener, and see the eyes widen.

    Tell the team now ...

    "I'm very comfortable and very confident with Michael Harris," coach Norv Turner said. "He's had an opportunity to go against good players throughout this camp. It's a different level. He's going to go against a real good player (Packers linebacker Clay Matthews). I don't know how they're going to play their guys, but Michael needs to step up and go play."

    Philip Rivers recently half-joked that, among undrafted NFL rookies, Harris has probably seen "more reps at left tackle than probably anybody ever."

    "From when he got thrown in there with the first group, it's never been too big for him," Rivers said. "He does a great job of learning from play to play. If something comes up, we miss a protection, we miss something, he gets better from play to play. I know he's excited to get in there (Thursday). It'll be fun."

    It's unclear just how many reps Bell, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday, will see Thursday between Harris and Henderson. Bell was released in June during OTAs and re-signed about two weeks ago.

    But the team's tackle rotation will probably be different come their second preseason game, Aug. 18 against the Cowboys.

    On Wednesday, as Gaither continues to rehab a back injury, the Chargers signed a pair of well-traveled vets, Anthony Davis and Michael Toudouze.

    They share recent ties to the United Football League, and their presence could move the versatile Bell inside to guard.

    Bell's most recent game action came in Division II last December, playing the Mineral Water Bowl against Northeastern State.

    A big jump, Bell admits.

    "But I'm ready to jump with it," he said.

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