According to cbssports.com writer Dan McLellan, San Diego Chargers running back Curtis Brinkley has a leg up to replace Mike Tolbert as the backup to Ryan Mathews. In the article it was stated that “Brinkley practiced with the second team during the Chargers first OTA on Tuesday.” San Diego head coach Norv Turner said “If you go in and play and have success, that is how you earn more opportunities. I think Brinkley has earned those opportunities.”
Brinkley was an undrafted player out of the University of Syracuse in 2009. Brinkley has 32 rushing attempts in his career for 112 yards and a touchdown. San Diego made many off-season moves that needed to be done like adding a pass rusher and improving their run defense which may have been accomplished with the additions of Melvin Ingram, Jarret Johnson, Kendall Reyes and Brandon Taylor. There were also offensive line problems because Kris Dielman retired, Nick Hardwick was considering retirement and Jared Gaither was a free agent, but the Chargers were able to bring back Hardwick and Gaither.
Brinkley has limited NFL experience, Edwin Baker was a seventh round pick and Michael Hayes was undrafted. The running back position is very important for San Diego because Antonio Gates missed six games during the 2010 season, three games last season and he is the only Charger with experience as a number one or number two option for a full season. Philip Rivers played great in 2010 as he led the NFL in passing yards while throwing 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd were first, second and third in receptions and were the three leaders in receiving yards in 2009. They combined to miss 22 games in 2010 and San Diego was 15th in rushing yards, so Rivers played great with a slightly above average running game. It would still be smart for insurance purposes if the team found an experienced backup for Mathews in 2012. I would be shocked if Mathews went down and San Diego finished above average as a team running the ball. If Cedric Benson would accept a backup role without a high asking price, San Diego should take a look at him. Thomas Jones makes sense as well because both guys have experience and success as starters, so if Mathews goes down with an injury, there would be a drop off in production and talent, but not as much as the drop off between Mathews and Brinkley.