OG Kris Dielman (Jeff Gross/Getty)
One position on San Diego’s roster that’s sure to have a different look in 2009 is offensive guard. Mike Goff, who’s started every game for the Chargers at right guard since 2004, is a free agent who won’t return. In his place will be either Kynan Forney or Scott Mruczkowski, who will fight for the starting job opposite all-star Kris Dielman.
General Manager A.J. Smith announced earlier this offseason that 11-year veteran Mike Goff will not return next season. That will be a huge adjustment for the Chargers, as Goff has started 80 consecutive games at right guard for San Diego.
Goff’s replacement will be either Scott Mruczkowski or Kynan Forney, who recently signed a two-year, $4.8 million contract extension to stay with the Chargers. The battle will be one to watch in training camp, as Forney (89 starts) is more established in the league but Mruczkowski is more established with the Chargers.
Prior to joining the Chargers shortly before last season’s Opener, Forney was a seven-year starter for the Atlanta Falcons. He helped the Falcons lead the NFL in rushing every year from 2004-2006 and was named a first-alternate to the Pro Bowl in 2005.
Forney laughs at the question of whether he can get back to his Pro Bowl form.
“As far as back to a Pro Bowl level, I feel like I’m still there. It’s just me needing an opportunity,” he said.
Also looking for an opportunity is Mruczkowski, a former seventh-round pick from Bowling Green who has started just two games over the last four years.
One of those starts came in a Week 13 matchup against the Falcons last season when Kris Dielman was out with the flu. Mruczkowski was given the starting nod over Forney, which could be telling.
Mruczkowski’s downfall could be his best attribute – his versatility. He can back up every position except left tackle, and the Chargers like having a veteran swing man waiting in the wings. That doesn’t mean Mruczkowski will toss away his calling card.
“The more you can do to help the team, the longer you’ll stay in the league,” said Mruczkowski, who signed a three-year contract extension last offseason.
The winner of this battle will start opposite two-time Pro Bowler Kris Dielman. The nasty mauler didn’t play up to his standards last season but was still San Diego’s most consistent lineman. Dielman can get out to the second level, make blocks in space and generate movement in the short-yardage running game.
Dielman is also a clubhouse leader who fights to keep his teammates from reading their own press clippings.
“I could care less what other people think about us,” Dielman said.
Also on the roster is first-year guard Brandyn Dombrowski, a former SDSU Aztec who spent last season on the practice squad. He could find himself in the same position in 2009 as the Chargers look to groom depth for the interior offensive line.
“[Dombrowski} is a great pass protector. He’s so big; he has a big, strong grip and powerful hands that made him a very dominant pass protector in college,” said SDSU O-line coach Jonathan Himebauch. “It was hard for defensive linemen to get off of him because of his raw power. He was a very dominant offensive lineman.”
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.