Los Angeles Chargers: Mailata’s Advice for Joe Alt on Switch to Right Tackle, “Like Wiping Your Behind With Other Hand.”

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the post-spring practice world, it became evident that the Los Angeles Chargers would turn their newly drafted first-round All-American left tackle into a right tackle for the first time in his adult life. It isn’t unprecedented and head coach Jim Harbaugh expressed a certain amount of confidence in Joe to make the move seamlessly before the start of the 2024 season, just over two months from now.

“Pretty much every offensive lineman has that versatility [to move from] right to left, you know. I don’t think that’s a rare, uncommon thing, Harbaugh said at a recent press conference.”

Los Angeles Chargers Move Alt from Left to Right

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles
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But perhaps we should look to someone who has made the same transition that Alt is attempting to make. Jordan Mailata. He moved back and forth between left and right tackle several times during those two seasons. And how did he feel about it?

“like wiping your behind with your other hand…you can get the job done, but it’s not going to be pretty,” Mailata told former offensive lineman Ross Tucker.

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Tucker also described a few of the intricacies of the switch,

“..not an impossible transition, but it is more complicated than people realize. His stance will be different. His weight transfer will be different, and he’ll use the opposite limb as his dominant inside hand.”  

Other Tackles that Made the Jump

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills
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To Harbaugh’s point, tackles have made the transition, with a variety of levels of success. Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs and Cincinnati’s Jonah Williams are among the players who’ve made that difficult switch. Detroit’s Penei Sewell has gone back and forth.

Here is what Wirfs said of his move;

“You have so many reps on one side and it’s muscle memory but then all of sudden you have do everything the other way and it feels weird. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. But it does suck off the rip. You feel very awkward and it just takes some getting used to. It’s easy to get very frustrated with yourself because you had success on this side. But I’ve got great guys around me.”

Perhaps experience in transitioning helped Mailata shoulder the strain. He made an even bigger change when he made the jump from rugby to American football. The ability to make that transition is proof that one can use the same mentality and mental framework to create another.

While it isn’t as big of a transition, Alt did make the move from tight end to tackle when he joined the Fighting Irish. Perhaps that prepared him for the challenge he now faces.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers OTA
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports