The Chargers have realized that Melvin Gordon needs help to get going. The line didn't do him any favors, and he didn't have a reliable FB leading the way for him as he did in college. This lead to Gordon failing more often than he succeeded and in no area was this more true, than near the goal line. Gordon finished his rookie season without a single touchdown to his name.
Tom Telesco, I'm sure with some input from head coach Mike McCoy and new (again) offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, decided to use rookies to help right the ship. In the 6th round the Chargers, reached in my opinion, and drafted FB Derek Watt from Wisconsin. Watt rarely carried the ball but he did catch out of the backfield and could have the added benefit of bringing some familiarity for Melvin Gordon, as Watt was Gordon's lead blocker in college. However, drafting Watt didn't really address the lack of a true power runner.
Enter "The Swain Train."
Shortly after the draft ended Telesco added Navy FB Chris Swain. "The Swain Train," the nickname he earned rumbling for yardage in Navy's triple option offense, brings back an element many of us miss in the Chargers offense.
A Gordon/Swain backfield could have a similar dynamic as the Mathews/Tolbert duo that ran for 1700 yards in '10. Would be huge for offense.— Daniel Szalma (@DanielSzalma) May 15, 2016
Chris finished his senior year with over 1000 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns. For his entire college career he averaged 5.2 ypc and had 19 TD's. He did so not as the featured back, but as one of 3 options in a backfield that included "offensive weapon" Keenan Reynolds who piled up 78 TD's and almost 4,000 yards over the last 3 seasons. That tells me Chris is a guy that makes the most of every opportunity he gets with the ball in his hands.
Based on what I've seen, I think Chris Swain is actually a better fit for this offense than Derek Watt is. However, I can also see a scenario where they both make the roster with Watt as the true FB and Swain as a FB/RB hybrid.
But Chris Swain is different from your average rookie. He's a Navy man.
Coming from the Naval Academy, Chris is obligated, and proud, to serve his country as an Officer in the US Navy for at least the next 5 years. That is part of what makes the Chargers such a good fit, as San Diego is one of the biggest Navy towns in the country. Chris wouldn't have to go far, and therefore wouldn't have to lose a lot of time, to go from his Navy job, to his football one.
I had the opportunity to talk to Chris on the phone last week and ask a few questions. It was a fun conversation for me as my dad is a retired Naval Officer so I grew up around the Navy. Here is what Chris had to share.
Matt - Chris, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions today. I'd like to start off asking if you have been out to San Diego yet?
Chris - "Yeah I've been out there a couple times during the summer for our midshipmen Summer Cruises where we go aboard a ship being staffed by active duty sailors to see what life is like aboard a ship as an officer. I also had a bowl game out there a year ago."
Matt - I saw that you are going SWO (Surface Warfare Officer), what lead you to choose SWO over other career paths in the Navy?
Chris - "I really like the people in that community. They were really nice. You also have a great opportunity to see the world so that's always cool."
Matt - Have the Chargers talked to you at all yet about how they see you being used in the offense yet? Do they see you as more of a short yardage power back or more of a traditional blocking fullback?
Chris - "I'm not sure yet, but they told my agent they see me as more of a swing guy, both a running back and fullback. But I'm open to do anything so I'm just gonna go out there and do what they tell me to do and go out there and compete."
Matt - Are you comfortable with a more traditional fullback type role? Coming from Navy you guys ran a lot of triple option and I don't see Philip Rivers running a triple option any time soon, so are you ready for a more traditional offense?
Chris - "Yeah I definitely feel comfortable, I did some lead blocking for Keenan (Reynolds) in our offense. Especially near the goal line. I've done my fair share of lead blocking even in the option. So yeah I feel pretty comfortable."
Matt - Did you hear from the Chargers at all leading up to the draft? Or was the first time you heard from them when they called to sign you?
Chris - "No, they showed interest before the draft. I talked to a scout over the phone, then he came to one of the pro days, then I met him again at the Senior Bowl and I remembered I had met that same scout before our first game of the season so yeah they had shown interest."
Matt - Lastly, most of the coverage around a Navy player getting a chance this draft season was around your Quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Now I know the Chargers won't be playing the Baltimore Ravens, who drafted Keenan, this season, but have you two called each other to congratulate each other and talked about how the draft process went down?
Chris - "Yeah it was awesome. We were texting each other all of draft weekend, then as soon as we got back to school we talked about it. It was really cool."