It’s no secret that the San Diego Chargers have not been happy with the production of running back Ryan Mathews during the course of his career. The former first round pick has battled recurring injuries, chronic fumblitis, and general ineffectiveness during his three seasons with the Bolts. It only stands to reason that the team will look to challenge him in the 2013 season and see what he is really made of in the upcoming season. NFL Free Agency has certainly gone a long way toward confirming those suspicions.
Coming into Friday, the Bolts had only Mathews on their depth chart at the running back position. Now the team has three backs in their stable.
The signing of Danny Woodhead was a genius move by General Manager Tom Telesco as he showed just how versatile he is during his time with the New England Patriots and also greatly helped quarterback Tom Brady. Philip Rivers could certainly use some assistance in San Diego and Woodhead will be the perfect player to bring back that Darren Sproles-like element to the Bolts’ offense which has been missing since Mighty Mouse left for the New Orleans Saints two years ago.
Landing Woodhead was certainly nice, but bringing back a familiar face in Ronnie Brown was definitely a smart move as well. Brown had only 46 carries a year ago, but the limited action allowed him to be super effective gaining 220 yards for a 4.8 yards per carry average. What he lacked on the ground was certainly made up for through the air as well with Brown catching a career-high 49 passes in 2012 for 371 yards. He was vital on third downs to give Rivers a check down when the pocket collapsed around him (which it did frequently last year).
So now that the Bolts have three backs in the roster, one would think they are finished with the position, right? While it is possible, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see them try to find a bruising back in the later rounds of the draft in order to develop a complement for whichever ball carrier winds up sticking around long-term. One guy that could be worth taking a flyer on in the sixth or seventh round is Rex Burkhead of Nebraska. He is known for his power and has a nose for the end zone. If the team chooses to wait until late in the draft order to land a back, Burkhead could be a nice developmental option.
Expect the new Chargers offense under Head Coach Mike McCoy to focus on the run game much more than under the incompetence of Norv Turner. McCoy had the Denver Broncos in the middle of the pack a year ago on the ground, but in 2011 before Peyton Manning arrived, Denver led the league in rushing. Look for a new dedication to the running game in 2013 and a more successful San Diego offense as a result.