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Chargers Positional Analysis: Running Backs

Let’s take a look at the strength’s and weaknesses of this newly minted LA Chargers team. Next is the group of running backs.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
NFL: Pro Bowl Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon

Gordon made the pro bowl last season after playing in really only 12 games, and racking up over 1400 yards through the air and on the ground, along with 12 TDs and only 2 fumbles. He continuously showed that he has what it takes to be the primary, 3 down back for the Chargers, and is one of the better ones in the league. After scoring zero touchdowns his rookie season, and fumbling 6 times in 217 touches, he had 295 touches this season and drastically improved. One reason for his red zone improvement was the lack of Danny Woodhead, who stole all but very few goal line carries. With a completely overhauled offensive line (adding Russell Okung, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney), it should allow Gordon some more room to run. Add in a solid backup, and Melvin Gordon should be even better in his 3rd season.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Branden Oliver

After missing 24 games in the last two seasons due to two separate injuries, the Chargers decided to re-sign him at a relatively cheap contract of $690,000. If you ask me, the money that these athletes make is absolutely ridiculous, but I digress. Oliver at his best is a solid backup with the ability to run between the tackles and catch well out of the backfield. At his worst, he’s unavailable, missing 26 games over his first 3 seasons. If he’s fully healthy and can make it through the season, he will be a solid option behind Melvin Gordon.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Farrow

Yeah, he was good in the preseason, but he just doesn’t fill me with very much confidence. He fumbled twice in 73 touches and didn’t show much physicality through the trenches. With a better offensive line, his numbers will obviously go up, but he’s not much in terms of a backup, and probably won’t stick with this team for long.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Kenjon Barner

Buried on the depth chart behind Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and newly signed LeGarrette Blount, this shifty back was cut. He is faster than his combine numbers suggest and can be molded to be a replacement for Danny Woodhead. He has only caught 16 balls in his career, but if he can work with the JUGS machine this offseason, he can carve out a nice role for himself going into next season.

Austin Ekeler

He put up good pro day numbers, with a broad jump of 10’8”, a vertical leap of 40.5 inches, and a 40 time of 4.43. His 40 time would have been 4th at the combine, vertical would have been 1st, and his broad jump would have been 3rd highest. So he has the athleticism needed to succeed in the NFL, but he is too small to be a between-the-tackles guy in the NFL, standing at only 5’9, and weighing less than 200 lbs. The biggest opening in the offense behind MGIII is for a pass catching back, and he was solid at it, recording 236 yards and 3 TDs in his senior year, and 402 yards and 2 TDs the year prior. If he can make good on his pro day numbers, he’s one to look out for and could be gunning for Farrow’s roster spot.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Williams

One of the most successful backs on the roster last season, Williams only rushed 18 times for 87 yards. He really doesn’t add a whole lot as a receiver, and his career averages are all very low in the rushing categories. When he broke onto the scene in 2014, he still only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. He went on to rush for 2.9 YPC his next season, while Rashad Jennings rushed for over 850 yards, averaging 4.4 YPC. I just don’t really feel like he’s very good if the Giants released him, and he has a long way to show me he’s worth a roster spot in this league.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Watt

The Chargers drafted one of the less-good fullbacks in the draft last season, probably due to the familiarity between him and Melvin Gordon. He rewarded the Chargers handsomely by appearing in about 13% of their plays, behind poor backup Kenneth Farrow. He consistently missed blocks and had at least one horrifying drop (after being heralded as a fantastic receiving fullback), and just really didn’t show much as a lead blocker. That being said, it was his rookie season, and we all know how much things can change in one offseason... just look at his teammate, Melvin Gordon.

So there you have it... The Chargers have a good starter, followed by an injury-plagued backup, and a bunch of no-name guys. Hopefully, Tom Telesco knows what he’s doing, and Anthony Lynn can turn one man’s trash into his treasure.