While much of the San Diego Chargers training camp attention has been focused on the revamped secondary, the mentoring of a breakout tight end or a very competitive wide receiver battle, there is one position that has quietly been solidified and perhaps a bit underestimated: Running Back.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead were already a nice 1-2 punch for San Diego, but the acquisition of free agent Donald Brown has gathered together a stable of running backs that, from top to bottom, can match any team in the NFL in regards to depth and versatility. Combined 2013 rushing statistics would have the trio running for 2,221 yards and 14TD’s while catching 129 passes for 1,008 yards and 9 scores last year.
Though it would be hard for those numbers to be duplicated now that they will share the backfield together, there is going to be every opportunity for all to produce according to Chargers coach Mike McCoy.
"You can never have enough talent on the football team," McCoy said. "I’ve said it a number of times since 2002 in Carolina with John Fox, we’ve always rolled with a number of backs. So that’s what we want here. They’re all going to play, all going to have their role on the football team."
Mathews is the workhorse of the team and is coming off his best season in the NFL. 2013 marked the 5th-year veteran’s first full 16-game season, as he rushed for 1,255 yards and 6 touchdowns. Mathews’ season was rewarded by being voted the Chargers’ Offensive Player of the Year and an All-AFC pick by the Professional Football Writers of America.
While Mathews gets most of his combined yardage toting the rock, Woodhead is dominant catching balls out of the backfield. Last year, Woodhead was second in the NFL in receptions (76) and receiving yards (605) while leading the league in touchdown catches for a running back (6). Brown is a mix of both, as witnessed by his 537 yards rushing and 214 yards receiving on only 129 ‘touches’.
Though Mathews will most likely lose his career high in number of rushes (285) from a year ago because of the addition of Brown, Mathews has shown no public unhappiness with his new running mate. In fact, Mathews has had nothing but praise.
"He’s a great guy, he’s more of a serious guy in the room," Mathews said. "He gets his work done. He’s a little bit of a downhill runner and a finesse runner just like Danny. Having him in the room with Danny and the new guys is great, it’s a great room. And I’m really excited about the season."
Quarterback Philip Rivers is also excited. He’s excited about teams having to worry about three fresh running backs interchanging throughout the game. And he’s also glad that there’s no animosity brewing between the running backs.
"All 3 too are so unselfish," Rivers said. "They get so excited when another guy makes a big run. It’s not like, ‘Ugh’; I wanted that to be my carry. Sure, they probably did want it to by their carry, but yet it’s a very unselfish group. I think coach has said it, shoot, they all three gonna get it, they’re all three gonna be in the game, they’re gonna be interchangeable. And if Ryan’s rolling, I’m sure he’s gonna get the bulk of it. If we get on a roll in the no-huddle period and Donald’s in there, Donald may stay for the whole series, so I think the ability to have any three of those guys and all three can do the same things is a big plus."
A few weeks ago we ran a series of articles counting down the Top 10 Most Valuable Chargers and to the amazement of some BFTB fans, RB’s Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead’s names were left off the list. The reasoning as explained was that if one of the two aforementioned players went down, it would not be as quite a loss because the other running back would step up. Brown is now part of this new trio of backs, and though the solid state of the Chargers run game isn’t making head waves, its good enough to put coach McCoy and QB Phillip Rivers mind at ease.
And one less position for fans to worry about.