It’s been quite some time since you’ve been able to definitively say that the San Diego Chargers’ rushing attack has been held down by one individual. Some may argue that Ryan Mathews made a valiant attempt to do just that in 2011, but that success was short lived and his campaign paled in comparison to the days of LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. The ground game’s decline in recent years has certainly been attributable to that lack of a feature back, but not this year.
In 2013, the Chargers have found a new dedication to the running game with a diverse group of backs that can offer many different skill sets to the offense. While Mathews is still the workhorse of the trio, he has yet to have more than 16 carries in any game this season. That seems to be the number the coaching staff would like to keep him at as they distribute the workload across the backfield. For a player that appeared to struggle when the bulk of the carries were dumped on him this seems like a sound plan moving forward.
Next there is the versatile free agent addition from this offseason in Danny Woodhead. He hasn’t been terribly active on the ground with only 14 carries for a total of 58 yards thus far, but he offers a speed factor that forces defenses to be on their toes. Where Woodhead is most effective is in the passing attack with his 17 catches for 108 yards so far this season. Head coach Mike McCoy and his staff have used Woodhead’s talents quite well thus far, and quarterback Philip Rivers has to enjoy having a safety valve available when the pressure closes in on him.
Those first two individuals will get most of the attention in the San Diego backfield, but neither of them have found their way into the end zone yet this season on the ground. That distinction belongs to the timeless Ronnie Brown who has served as the short yardage back for the Bolts so far in 2013. His 13 carries for 48 yards is nothing to write home about, but Brown is a reliable receiver as well and has been crucial to picking up first downs in tight situations. His veteran presence cannot be overlooked in the Chargers’ stable of running backs.
San Diego’s rushing attack may only be ranked 18th in the NFL with an average of 102.7 yards on the ground per game, but that’s a gigantic improvement from the 91.3 yards per game in 2012 (27th). These Bolts certainly aren’t a run-first team like the days of LT, but there aren’t many teams that can make that claim in the modern day version of the NFL. As long as this offense can stay balanced and maintain a threat of the run on any given down, the Chargers will experience a serious offensive awakening courtesy of their three-headed rushing attack in 2013.