Chargers Ground Game: Where Do They Go From Here?

Maybe you have heard this one before: the Chargers had one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL in 2009, ranking 31st in the league (a slight improvement from their last-place ranking earlier in the year). And, as Chargers fans can attest, it really was as bad as it sounds.

Future hall of fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson was too-frequently stopped at the line of scrimmage. Six-million dollar (now seven-million dollar) back-up Darren Sproles was a great asset to the passing game, but was forgettable running the ball out of the backfield. The rotating fullbacks, while huge contributors on special teams, did nothing to make fans forget about the likes of Lorenzo Neal, let alone Fred McCrary.

Yet somehow the Chargers still went 13-3. It makes me wonder just how important the rushing offense is to this Chargers team. And if it’s important, can the team make the necessary changes to improve upon last year's performance?

In 2009, the only Chargers back who averaged more than four yards per carry was Mike Tolbert, and he only had 25 rushing attempts, usually in clean-up duty at the end of a blow-out. With four other running backs who average less than four yards per carry (some closer to three yards per carry), doesn’t it make you wonder if a new running back is not the sole solution to our rushing problems?

It wasn’t long ago that practically everyone who watched football knew the Chargers number-one need was an offensive tackle. We went through the 2009 draft practically ignoring that position, and all but ignored it in free agency as well. Before you knew it, the 2009 season started, and offensive linemen began dropping like flies. At different times Hardwick went out, Vasquez went out, Clary went out, McNeill was ailing, our depth was raw, and the offensive line spent the bulk of the season trying to adapt.

Do you want to fix the running game in 2010? I say you focus less on your running back and worry more about your injury prone center, pass-block-only right guard and below-average right tackle, and your overall depth across the line. Or, you admit that the Chargers can pretty much throw the ball against anyone and stop pretending that a 1st round running back is going to make an average offensive line better.

April 19, 2010

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Chris said... Apr 19, 2010, 11:33:00 PM

Without moving up in the 1st round I think the Chargers should draft this way:

Trade for Ronnie Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis, or Lendale White.
1st Round BPA on Defense (CB, DE, NT)
2nd Round Right Tackle or NT
Trade up back into 2nd Round for a RB

getting a running back via trade will really help us in the short term and long term as far as OL and Defense. Our OL is average and drafting a 1st round RB when we lean about 70/30 pass to run ratio, does NOT make sense. So why not fix the RT position? Vasquez was a rookie and will get better overtime. FB is another issue that should be adressed.

Anonymous said... Apr 19, 2010, 11:45:00 PM

I really don't know what you guys are talking about. We need a Run Game to be the best in the league. Our defense is not really that bad. If we can get Aluala in the 2rd we will be much better on defense period and Merriman the OLB I know we are going to be on top of our game again. I really thing the rotation at nose would be ok one more year. Pick up a veteran in the second wave to help at nose. I think our secondary is pretty good.
1) Ryan Matthews or Javid Best
2) Tyson Aluala move up if we have to
2) Terrance cody or Cam Thomas (trade Spoles period to much money)
3) Lagarrette Blout or trade with the bills for Marshawn Lynch
4) Myron Rolle Florida State FS/CB
5) OL or QB
6) OL or QB
7) OL

Chris said... Apr 19, 2010, 11:50:00 PM


our defense was poor at best on tackling, hardly a pass rush, and burned up the middle countless running plays. we need a run stuffing 3-4 Nose Tackle.

Jeff Williams said... Apr 20, 2010, 7:36:00 AM

I would LOVE to improve the running game. LOVE LOVE LOVE to. But I don't believe that a 1st round rookie RB, and a late round OL is the solution. You might get a couple of break-aways throughou the season, but you still will not have a consistent rushing threat. Fix the OL depth, give me a right tackle, and I think Tolbert and a veteran RB would pound the rock like we did in the good ole days.

Anonymous said... Apr 20, 2010, 7:52:00 AM

Jeff Williams and the writer of this article hit the nail on the head.

Ed said... Apr 20, 2010, 12:33:00 PM

Does anyone remember how was the running game before the L.T. era? I do. Everyone said that the Chargers didn't have a RB that can hit the holes fast enough to get thru the holes. L.T.'s arrival proved this. Now we are back to square 1. L.T. lost that quickness he had when he hit the line. Father time robbed him of this quickness. Now we need a young RB who can fullfill this. Maybe 2 RB? I feel Spiller,Mathews could be gone. So lets go for Gerhart!! Power back thats what he is, punishing tacklers has he works his way to a TD. Than in the third Ben Tate, quick but another back that loves to punish tacklers. These type of backs that usualy the Raiders,49ers,Redskins always have.

Jay said... Apr 20, 2010, 3:17:00 PM

Running back can be addressed in the 3rd round. there will still be running backs! Get Cody, or Aluala with first pick. if the time is running out on running backs then spend the 40th pick on a RB. if not we can wait it to the 3rd.

Jeff Williams said... Apr 20, 2010, 8:54:00 PM

I agree that we could use a big freight train of a running back, someone who can create their own holes running up the middle. And you can get that type of back in the 3rd or even 4th round in this draft. But give me a top-10 defense and Rivers behind center and you won't worry about who is running the ball at the end of the day.

P.S. to Anonymous from this morning, I was the author, so thanks for the double props!

P.P.S. Can we all agree that we all should be using a name or handle when we post comments?

Ed said... Apr 21, 2010, 12:03:00 AM

Our offensive line does good, they need to get use to getting off the ball when its time to run. Maybe a new o-line coach is needed, to motivate these players. We all know it takes time to get a 0-linemen ready. Thats why we draft them late as project players. Now CB position Cason should do good, with Vasher & Strickland as back ups we could draft a CB late like Myron Rolle. So that leaves the RB & DT position a priority in Rounds 1 & 2. (1) Mathews or Gerhart (2) Cody or Thomas (3) Rolle CB or Tate RB. Alot of RBs are Juniors. So next year will be lean.Sproles only signed a 1yr. contract, plus he wants a contract fitting of an every down back. It isn't going to happen. He will gone after next year, maybe before. If the Chargers can trade Sproles, Merriman, or Folyd before or during the draft will be great.

Los said... Apr 21, 2010, 9:18:00 AM

I've been saying the Chargers problems in the run game were more because of the Line than the RBs for over a year now. I think their biggest hole is at RT, there is no one on the depth chart who is a legitimate starter at the position and I didn't understand how we passed on RT after RT. Hardwick is very injury prone and i think they'll look for his replacement in this draft. I don't agree with you on Vasquez though, i think he did very well last season and he's improved as a run-blocker. I think Turner likes his line to pass protect first and run block second; if their doing their job they'd only really have to run block for 3-5 yards for the first or TD in Turner's system. The chargers definately need an upgrade at RB but beefing up their RT and finding a future center should be on the priority list this season too.

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