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Chargers crown King as new LT

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Some seven months since Kevin Haslam put his fingers in the dirt at left tackle in the 2012 season finale, the San Diego Chargers' long, strange trip to find his replacement is over.

King Dunlap, the throne is yours.

One of the most spirited debates of the Chargers' offseason is all but over, with Dunlap beating out Max Starks for the spot to protect quarterback Philip Rivers' blind side.

First, the Chargers had to decide to cut the expensive ties with Jared Gaither. Then they had to decide the answer to replace Gaither was on the roster, with guys just like Haslam.

Rebuffed in the draft for a left tackle, the Chargers hoped their answer would be found in the free-agent market, as they signed the veteran Dunlap, then Starks.

Many thought Starks, a later signee, would win the battle for left tackle. With his Super Bowl credentials through his days with the Steelers, Starks was considered the favorite.

But Dunlap started the offseason workouts running with the first team and really never left. He rotated with Starks on occasion in practice, and did so to a degree in the first two preseason games.

But it was clear in Saturday's 24-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals that the job is Dunlap's. Starks came in later, but when Dunlap was out briefly with a foot ailment, it was Mike Harris -- not Starks -- who replaced him.

Harris was among the carousel of players to play left tackle last year when the grand plan to plop Gaither there for the season blew up in the Chargers' faces. Gaither was either hurt or unmotivated; what was clear was the Chargers needed to supply an answer at the line's most critical spot.

Dunlap will take over, and now the Chargers pray for a do-over in what has been shoddy protection for two years. Last year Rivers was sacked an AFC-high 49 times.

That Dunlap is the guy isn't a guarantee there won't still be leaks. He lost his job at times last year in Philadelphia, and some Eagles watchers are amazed he has reinvented himself with the Chargers.

But the Chargers have been pleased with his work, and for now, Dunlap works for them.

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.
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