Chargers by the (Jersey) Numbers: #41

41 could easily be subtitled "The Battle of the Backs."  No less than three solid running back choices and one of the greatest pure fullbacks of all time vie for the coveted Golden Jersey.

The Runner Up

Terrell_fletcher_medium

Terrell Fletcher, RB

I hereby anoint T-Fletch to be the sacrificial lamb Running Back to go up against the mighty valiant Fullback that would slaughter him or Earnest Jackson or Bo Matthews.

 

The fact is that in 8 seasons with the Bolts, Fletcher was a pretty nice option, especially on 3rd down.  Good quickness – if not straight-ahead speed – and an ability to grind out tough yards if it meant getting the 1st down.

 

Fletcher was one of those all-around versatile backs who did just about everything for the Chargers.  He ran the ball, caught the ball, picked up blitzing linebackers, played special teams, returned punts, even threw a touchdown pass.

 

His statistics were never much to shout about, but that probably had more to do with the lousy teams he was on and coach’s he played for.  It’s too bad Fletcher didn’t get to experience the good times of the Schottenheimer years.  But the fact that he played his entire career with the Chargers is certainly worth more than any other Honorable Mention.

The Winner

Lorenzo_neal_medium (looking for someone to hit)

Lorenzo Neal, FB

Although I don’t really like to consider guys who could contend for some other team’s Golden Jersey, there’s no denying what Neal meant to this team, and in a weird way, still means.

 

The Chargers never had a true blocking fullback the caliber of Neal until Neal.  Although he caught an occasional pass (and it was usually a pretty ugly sight), and sometimes ran the ball (anyone who knew anything about the Chargers during his time knew that 3rd or 4th and 1 meant Neal time), but his primary purpose for being was to lead block for LT.  Sacrifice his body for the glory of someone else.  But in the process, team glory.

 

Neal’s stats as a Charger are laughable – almost as laughable as the times he would actually run back (while carrying the ball) to hit an opponent, like he was blocking for himself.  He never totaled more than 250 yards from scrimmage.  He never scored more than 1 touchdown in a season for the team.  But obviously what he meant to the team goes well beyond statistics – even LT’s statistics.  The question remains: was LT a better running back with Neal blocking for him?  Statistically speaking, not as much as you might think (see chart below).  Would LT be doing better now if Neal were still blocking for him?  Probably not.  But because we as fans saw what a high quality fullback can bring to the table, we will forever question the lack of one.

 

LT’s Rushing statistics (shaded years are with Lorenzo Neal)

Year

Attempts

Yards

TDs

Yds/Att

Yds/Game

2002

372

1683

14

4.5

105.2

2003

313

1645

13

5.3

102.8

2004

339

1335

17

3.9

89.0

2005

339

1462

18

4.3

91.4

2006

348

1815

28

5.2

113.4

2007

315

1474

15

4.7

92.1

2008

292

1110

11

3.8

69.4

 

The Rest

Charlie Flowers, RB

Earnest Jackson, RB

Bo Matthews, RB

Booker Russell, RB

King Simmons, S

Phil Tuckett, WR

Nat Whitmyer, DB

 

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