When the Chargers come to Cincinnati this Sunday, they could be without arguably their best offensive lineman.
Offensive guard D.J. Fluker suffered an ankle injury during Sunday's season-opening game against the Lions. Fluker was hurt with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter when Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tackled running back Danny Woodhead into Fluker's legs. Fluker was then carted to the locker room, and there was initially fear he suffered a season-ending injury.
Thankfully, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said Monday that Fluker had only a sore ankle and not a broken one. McCoy didn't say Fluker definitely would miss Sunday's game against the Bengals, but initial reports say he will miss 4-6 weeks.
Though Fluker missed much of the game, the Chargers still scored 30 straight points to rally from a 21-3 deficit. However, Detroit's defensive line is not up to the caliber of the Bengals now that they don't have Ndamukong Suh. The combination of Geno Atkins, Wallace Gilberry, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap will prove much harder to handle, especially if Fluker isn't playing.
Making this loss even bigger is that Fluker would be a key player in San Diego effectively blocking Atkins, who now looks like his old All-Pro self. He may have done a good job at it too. Pro Football Focus gave Fluker a 2.7 grade for his performance in 55 snaps against the Lions, the second-best of any Chargers player and the best by any offensive player.
Fluker had been San Diego's right tackle since being selected with the 11th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. However, right guard candidate Johnnie Troutman suffered a broken arm in the first preseason game, which helped lead to Fluker's move to guard and Joe Barksdale took over at right tackle.
When Fluker left Sunday, backup Chris Hairston took his place, though he's never started an NFL game at guard. He was a quality tackle for the Bills from 2011-12 before missing all of 2013 with a leg injury. He then was a backup in Buffalo during the 2014 season before signing with San Diego this offseason.