Chargers C Nick Hardwick
Height: 6-3 1/2 Weight: 305 Speed: 5.18
Notes: Youth hockey player and high school wrestler. Earned his pilot's license before he turned 18 and entered Purdue on a Marines ROTC scholarship. Did not play football at Purdue his first two years, walking on to the team his third year in 2001 and redshirting as a defensive lineman. Moved to center and started 6-of-10 games that he played in '02, missing three with a high right ankle sprain, and taking over as the starter for his senior year. Drafted in the third round, 66th overall, by the Chargers in 2004 and started 14 games as a rookie, missing two games with a knee injury. Started 13 games in '05, missing three with a high ankle sprain. Started all 16 in '06 and again in '10, missing three in '07 with a foot injury, four in '08 with foot and concussion injuries and all but three in '09 after needing surgery on his ankle. Started all five games in '11. Was extended to a six-year, $17 million contract in '06 and is set to become a free agent following the season. Is the Chargers' union representative.
Positives: Very sound in pass protection. Great balance and lateral agility to slide, shuffle and adjust to movement in-line — is seldom on the ground. Extremely smart and competitive, self-made hard worker. Makes all the line calls. Outstanding weight-room strength and very good correlating functional football play strength — matches up surprisingly well with big-bodied cloggers. Understands leverage. Has very active hands — coils and replaces — and controls the rush.
Negatives: Tends to play too upright and a bit too straight-legged — can play with more consistent knee bend. Not a powerful or aggressive run blocker — cannot create a surge. Does not show a mean streak or look to bury defenders. Lacks shock and power in his punch. Struggles to initiate contact and adjust to movement on the second level — is often late to arrive and whiffs. Has consistently missed time with injuries and only started all 16 games in two of seven seasons.
Summary: A Pro Bowl-caliber performer when healthy, Hardwick possesses the size, quickness, strength and intelligence desired in a pivot and has been a very dependable starter on one of the NFL's grittiest, workmanlike offensive lines. Is a better pass protector than run blocker, capable of handling power and mass, but possesses limited blocking range and is at his best best zoning off short areas. The inability to stay healthy has been his greatest shortcoming.