Preseason is a time for late-round and undrafted players to make a name for themselves, gain valuable experience, and show their teams why they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster. One player on the San Diego Chargers who is making a strong case is running back Fozzy Whittaker.
Through two preseason games, Whittaker leads the team with 71 rushing yards on 23 carries and the team’s lone touchdown on the ground. Though his 3.1 yards per carry don’t seem overly impressive, he’s looked better than his numbers indicate and has shown good quickness, patience and decisive cuts. Whittaker currently appears fourth in line on the running back depth chart, but there’s even talk that Whittaker could take Ronnie Brown’s roster spot and make the team as the third running back.
Given Ryan Mathews’ extensive injury history, Whittaker could be in line for a lot of playing time in 2013 if he makes the final roster. Though Danny Woodhead is expected to be a big part of the offense, he may not be the best option to carry the full load if Mathews goes down. Woodhead is more of a complementary player than Mathews’ primary backup and will be best utilized as a third-down, change-of-pace back and outlet receiver. The same can be said about Brown, who barely ran the ball last season, but caught 49 passes. Whittaker could be the guy the Chargers turn to if (or when) Mathews gets injured.
While many NFL teams have found late-round and undrafted gems at running back, claiming that running backs can be found anywhere, the Chargers haven’t recently had that kind of success. Curtis Brinkley, Jordan Todman, Gartrell Johnson and Marcus Thomas are just a few names who the Chargers drafted in the mid- to late rounds or signed as undrafted free agents and could never get going. Even last year’s seventh round pick Edwin Baker hasn’t yet developed either and is behind Whittaker in the race for a roster spot. Whittaker, who went undrafted due to a knee injury, has a chance to finally break that mold and develop into a nice backup for the Bolts.
Whittaker will need to continue his strong preseason to make the final cut and will likely be extra motivated this Saturday when he returns to the desert in a matchup with his former team, the Arizona Cardinals. Whittaker spent his rookie season in Arizona before being released in March and claimed off waivers by San Diego.