Chris Watt has big shoes to fill

SAN DIEGO -- Coach Mike McCoy always says they draft players for a reason. That appears to be the case for last year’s third round draft selection: Notre Dame product Chris Watt.

With Nick Hardwick announcing his retirement on Tuesday, Watt is penciled in as the starting center for the San Diego Chargers as they prepare for the 2015 season.

Of course, a lot can change from now until September. But general manager Tom Telesco said the team was pleased with how Watt performed at center in five starts last season.

“You just don’t plug a guy in and figure he’s going to fill [Hardwick’s] shoes right away,” Telesco said. “We’re happy with the guys we have, but no one is going to walk in and be Nick Hardwick on Day 1. And we’re not asking them to do that.”

Watt was drafted for his football intelligence, athleticism and versatility as a guy that can play all three interior offensive line positions. But for now, Watt will be tasked with developing the kind of rapport with Philip Rivers that Hardwick developed over a decade.

“For what he did this year, I’m looking forward to continue the opportunity to work with him and see his growth as a center, and a guard,” Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Allessandris said. “We’re still in that phase of trying to figure it out. But I think he has a lot of great qualities as an offensive lineman. He’s got a good mind. He wants to grow. He’s a sponge. He wants to absorb and learn.”

D’Allesandris also discussed the future of right tackle D.J. Fluker, stating that a decision has not been made on whether the University of Alabama product will kick inside to guard.

“We’re still in some discussion phase there, so I’d rather wait on that,” D’Alesandris said. “We think we see some things, but we want to make sure. It’s going to be a lot of decision making between now and OTAs (organized team activities), and after OTAs.”

One thing D’Alesandris said is Fluker provides versatility, including that ability to play left tackle in a pinch, which he did for three games during his rookie season when King Dunlap was out with a concussion. Fluker has only missed one start in his first two years in the league.

“Don’t think he can’t, because he can,” D’Alesandris said. “He proved that he could. We’ve just got to keep working to help improve him.”