Are The Chargers Still A Good Running Football Team?

For those who claim it foolish to read too much into preseason play, I'd argue that there is indeed valuable insight into a team's prospects that can be gained through watching exhibition games. While preseason win totals are certainly not an accurate predictor of regular season records, what the preseason can tell us is what the team's core offense and defense does, and doesn't, do well. The most obvious example for me is the fact that all preseason long, the Chargers struggled to maintain a consistent running attack but were able to make big plays through the air, down the field. This is a trend that has carried over into the regular season, and as such, brings up some interesting discussions. Have the San Diego Chargers changed their offensive identity under Norv Turner? Has the emergence of Philip Rivers and the aging of Ladainian Tomlinson caused the team to change its approach towards generating offensive production? Do the Chargers have the personnel to required to be a successful power running team, or will they lean heavily on their passing attack?

(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)

Going back to the preseason, Chargers running backs through four exhibition games averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per carry. Their average through week 1 of the regular season? 3.3 yards per carry. Heading into this season, I thought it would be a goal of the Chargers to get back to running the football with effectiveness. AJ Smith said leading up to the draft that the Chargers needed to improve their run game:

"I just know we're not good enough. But I will say this, which I've said before: we need to have a solid, consistent running game. We have to."

The Chargers have tried to run the ball, but are often unsuccessful. They lack creativity, and make running the ball seem like a chore. Running the ball on first down is becoming trademark Chargers football, and it's not fooling anyone. It would be one thing if the Chargers were a team who could run the ball with unashamed repetition, daring the opposing defense to stop them. But the Chargers are simply not that good yet. These are not the Minnesota Vikings; they are more like the Indianapolis Colts.

As far as I'm concerned, I think the Chargers might as well come out and say they are a passing team. They should be more open about the fact that they have an elite Quarterback in Philip Rivers who is surrounded by weapons. The Chargers are a very good passing team and should be proud of it. Having said that, having a balanced attack is obviously the ideal situation, so the San Diego Chargers would be better off using the pass to set up the run. Stop running into stacked boxes on first down, use more play action, more screens, and I think the Chargers have more success.

Says Head Coach Norv Turner, "We want to be a running team. We want to pound the ball. We want to mix the run. But there was a lot of times over the last year and a half that, when we go back and throw it like we did in the fourth quarter, 12 for 14 for a 144 yards, we're pretty good. So we're always torn with that (running vs. passing). But we're going to continue to run the football. But we've got a lot of guys who can make plays and contribute, so we've got to be a great a protection team, and we've got to find a way to use all the guys we have."

The Chargers seem intent on getting 20-25 rushes in per game, but the question still remains if they will be productive or not. What's your take; should the Chargers continue to pound the ball, or will they be better off letting Philip Rivers take over the game? Can the Chargers win a championship with their offense? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!

September 16, 2009

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Anonymous said... Sep 16, 2009, 6:47:00 PM

I love balance, they should continue to run the ball. But please Norv, no more of those predictable run's up the middle on 1st down. Please be creative and come up with something else. I promise if we PA, everyone would fall for it since they expect a run up the middle. I would keep the run game strong.

Jeff Williams said... Sep 16, 2009, 8:40:00 PM

If the Chargers could win the battle at the line of scrimmage, then I think they would still be a running team. Since they can't (and because the passing game is so solid), "Air Turner" will be leading the charge again this season.

Anonymous said... Sep 16, 2009, 9:28:00 PM

No question we have become more of a passing team. Yes, due to aging LT, yes due to talented Philip Rivers, and also due to consistent 8 man fronts that the O-line and company cannot handle. All three factors work together to make our passing much more effective.

Anonymous said... Sep 16, 2009, 11:05:00 PM

They should run but not out of the typical I formation. Given their personel (lots of good receivers, running backs who are good in space), they would be better off running draws, pitches and screens. The O-line just isn't strong enough to handle 8 man fronts.

Andy said... Sep 17, 2009, 11:08:00 AM

I couldn't agree more ...use the passing game first to open up the run ...gain balance by going to the air first.

Anonymous said... Sep 17, 2009, 11:12:00 AM

Hey, the "eyes" have it! The Chargers are hip-deep in tall, good-to-great receivers (HoF-worthy Gates, VJ, Chambers, Floyd, Nanee, Osgood, even Davis) and smallish running backs who can catch and are indeed "good in space"; and Rivers has shown a knack for often getting them the ball (hence his excellent QB rating). I just wish he had a quicker release, because I think would get the ball there a step quicker and allow for more yards after the catch (but that glass is both half-empty and half-full).
The point is: The Chargers are obviously a passing offense, and running is clearly not what they do well anymore, at least consistently. It's sad to see a great back like LT lose any real opportunity in the twilight of his stellar career, but the offense simply has more top-quality receivers than it does offensive linemen now.
It's a no-brainer, but LT's such a phenomenal talent I'd even like to see him occasionally line up as a slot receiver, because I still think he's great enough to make it a legitimate threat! Am I crazy?...

Anonymous said... Sep 17, 2009, 9:42:00 PM

when norv took over the team and phil became the QB the running game as it was creased.

Justin said... Sep 18, 2009, 11:01:00 AM

we ceased to be a running team the minute marty left... hopefully bennett can light up some defenses... it seems like LT is not the same LT were used to and the O line is less than stellar at run blocking the last few years.

Anonymous said... Sep 18, 2009, 7:58:00 PM

we can be an elite running/passing team if our o-line would could block..

Anonymous said... Sep 29, 2009, 2:49:00 PM

Yes the running game is a must. We lack the OL to open holes right now and we lack the punishing backs we've had in the past. We need to use what we have and that means changing up the play calling a little and open things up.

Rob Zepeda said... Sep 29, 2009, 4:30:00 PM

@ anon above...great points, the Chargers lost a lot of toughness in the run game when Turner and Lorenzo Neal moved on.

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