San Diego Chargers Positional Analysis: Runningbacks

He's not L.T., but who is? Instead, he's a key component to a dynamic offense. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Losses: Mike Tolbert

Additions: Le'Ron McClain, Edwin Baker

Returning: Ryan Mathews, Jacob Hester, Curtis Brinkley

Projected Starters: Ryan Mathews, Le'Ron McClain

Strengths:

  • Versatility: Mathews brings the speed, McClain brings the power. McClain can also block as a fullback and if pressed Hester can take some carries. Hester also makes an impact on special teams.
  • Level of play: Mathews played in the Pro Bowl last year, has the pedigree of being a first round pick and advanced stats as well as scouting reports peg him as one of the best RBs in the AFC. McClain is a couple years removed, but has Pro Bowls on his resume. Hester is a special teams captain.
  • Leadership: McClain could fill in the leadership gap on offense that was lost when Dielman retired. As mentioned, Hester is a leader on special teams.

Weaknesses:

  • Injuries: Mathews has a history of injuries and his health is really all that matters on this unit.
  • Depth: If Mathews misses games once again or has to come out during a game, the level of play loses a lot. McClain has experience running the ball well in the NFL, but it's not the same. Hester is not a threat. Brinkley has his moments, but he doesn't look the part of a 20 carry-per-game RB. Edwin Baker is unproven.
  • Mistakes: This mainly falls on Mathews. His fumbling rate decreased from 2010 to 2011, but when you carry the rock as much as he is expected to ball security is paramount.
  • Third downs: Sproles was the 3rd down back in 2010 and Tolbert handled those duties in 2011. It is yet to be seen as to how Mathews will fair and on the surface McClain doesn't fit the mold of typical 3rd down backs. Maybe not a weakness per se, but certainly an unknown.
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