SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers' inability to run the football in 2014 served as the team’s glaring weakness on offense -- something general manager Tom Telesco worked to change this offseason.
Drafting running back Melvin Gordon was an obvious nod to that issue. But just as important was signing guard Orlando Franklin in free agency. At 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, the 27-year-old Franklin brings size and a nasty demeanor to San Diego’s offensive line.
With the addition of Franklin, the Chargers average 6-6 and 326 pounds up front, one of the biggest offensive lines in the NFL. However, size doesn’t matter if you can’t execute. And Franklin believes with hard work and repetitions, the Chargers can develop into one of the most dominant lines in the NFL.
"Absolutely," he said. "I think we have the right guys on this team and in that offensive line room where, when we want to run the ball, we should be able to get that done. I mean, effort requires no talent, right? It’s all about effort. I feel like we’re going to be able to accomplish a lot of great things this season, but we have to take it one day at a time."
For the Chargers, running the football when they want to run it will be critical. The Chargers averaged 3.2 yards per attempt on first-down runs -- when defenses know offenses want to run the football -- second-worst in the NFL.
Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler has seen the difference Franklin makes to the offensive line in practice, playing against the starters every day in offseason work. And he’s excited about the possibilities.
"Just look at the man," Butler said. "His size alone -- he’s huge. So when he’s coming off of that double team, you better have your chin strap buckled up because he’s coming to take your head off.
"And that’s what you love out of your O-linemen. I wouldn’t say down and dirty, but someone that brings that gritty mindset -- we want to run the ball, and you can run it behind me."
"Me and King have known each other for a long period of time, but it’s that chemistry," Franklin said. "You are going to have to work at it each and every day. So you’re not going to feel good next to each other really until the middle of training camp, or really when you get out there for the first game, and you are just understanding each other and on the same page.
"It definitely takes a while to build chemistry with guys that play beside you."
One of the ways San Diego offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris works to build that chemistry is switching guys around so that everyone learns how to play different positions. Franklin said that philosophy is different from his experience in Denver, where players stayed at one position, and will help when guys go down with injuries.
"There’s no ceiling to this offensive line, to be honest with you," Franklin said. "We have a lot of great guys in that room, and a lot of young guys. I feel like I came here and I’m like one of the old heads now.
"When I was in Denver I was the youngest guy on the starting five. So it’s definitely exciting to be around these guys. And they’re athletic. All of these guys have tremendous athleticism, and we’ve just got to continue to work together each and every day, getting down the calls and being able to think like one another, and we’re going to be alright."
Even with the possibility of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, Franklin recently purchased a home in the San Diego area. He said that good friend Ryan Clady has homes in Los Angeles, so he can find a place there as a renter if the team moves north.
Franklin said he also owns property in Toronto, and will snowbird once his playing career is over. But for now, he’s pleased with his new purchase.
"It just so happens that I was able to find a perfect house I feel like, and I got it for a good deal, so why not?" Franklin said about his new home.