Everyone knows how fragile San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is. Though very talented, Mathews has become unreliable as an NFL back because of his fumbles and injuries. The Chargers will likely give Mathews one more year to prove himself, but shouldn’t hinge their season on the hope that he’ll finally figure it out.
Head coach Mike McCoy will likely try to reestablish San Diego’s dormant running game. If that were to happen, not only will Mathews need to stay healthy, the Chargers will need a solid complementary back to help carry the load.
Backups Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle are set to be free agents. Though neither set the world on fire, both contributed nicely last season. However, neither can effectively replace Mathews when he inevitably goes down.
Last season, Brown was primarily used as a third-down back. He wasn’t utilized much in the running game and failed to score a touchdown, but caught 49 passes for 371 yards. Battle started five games for the Chargers, but managed just 311 yards on 95 carries, or 3.3 yards per carry. He also failed to find the endzone after Week 4. The Chargers could definitely use an upgrade.
The Chargers’ running game was pitiful last season, and the team shouldn’t be afraid to spend some money to fix the problem in free agency.
A name that is getting tossed around among fans is free agent Ahmad Bradshaw. However, he was released by the New York Giants due to his chronic foot problems that has forced him out of six games over the past two seasons. The Chargers already have one injury-prone back and certainly don’t need another. Meanwhile, fans would love for free-agent-to-be Reggie Bush to make a homecoming. However, it would seem unlikely that Bush would be willing to join a running back by committee.
A name to look out for is Steven Jackson, who can opt out of his current contract with the St. Louis Rams and become an unrestricted free agent. The 29-year-old veteran is a physical runner and excellent pass catcher. Better yet is that he’s stayed fairly healthy over the past four years of his career and would be a great complement to Mathews.