Headed into the 2012 season it is clear who the main work horse will be coming out of the backfield for San Diego, third year, 12th overall pick Ryan Mathews. What is not so clear, is who will be number two in the pecking order to get carries?
The Chargers signed Le’Ron McClain in the offseason who has been used in the past mostly as a blocking back, with the exception to 2009 with the Baltimore Ravens where due to a Ray Rice injury McClain stepped up and toted the ball for 902 yards. McClain is a versatile capable ball carrier and adequate receiver option at 6’0” 260 lbs. He would be similar to what the Chargers had for the past couple of years in Mike Tolbert.
Next you have a clear cut running back Curtis Brinkley. Standing at 5’9” 208 lbs Brinkley more so than McClain fits the mold of a prototypical running back in today’s NFL. While headed into his third year, Brinkley has not received the number of carries to show whether he would be a fully capable back or not. He has certainly showed flashes here and there of his potential but if Mathews were to go down could the Chargers depend on him for a steady dose of 15-20 carries a game?
The third option on the team is headed into his fifth year with the Bolts, the versatile Jacob Hester, formerly a halfback in college at LSU, the Chargers have been using him as a fullback. With the signing of McClain to be the primary fullback does this mean backup fullback/halfback duties for Hester? Or more likely to specialize as a special teams ace?
While these are all options on the current roster, lets not forget about the possibility of adding a back through the draft or in free agency. Jackie Battle and Ryan Grant are some of the names still on the open market. Or Lemichael James or Ronnie Hillman could be brought on through the draft. It will be very interesting indeed to see how this pans out over the next month.