Who will carry the ball in San Diego?
One team to watch from the running back perspective leading up to and on draft weekend is the San Diego Chargers.
Recently, Chargers GM A.J. Smith told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune: “We’re in the market for running backs. Even I will not dance around the issue and have fun with the facts.” Smith went so far to say the Bolts would fill the role by “any means necessary.”
We know the Chargers want a replacement for the departed LaDainian Tomlinson and prefer a back who can be much more productive than LT was in 2009 in Norv Turner’s offensive scheme. A back who can come downhill, hit the hole and get to the second level of the defense.
Darren Sproles has yet to begin talks with the Chargers on a long-term deal, and as Acee points out, the possibility of an eventual trade involving Sproles in not out of the question. A possible draft day deal coming?
But Sproles isn’t a feature back in Turner’s system. He’s dynamic and explosive when he gets open space to work with, but in San Diego, they’re still in search of a back who can carry the ball 20 times a game.
I’m a big fan of Turner’s running scheme in San Diego because it’s a legit scheme that doesn’t include a ton of window dressing and nonsense. The Chargers line up and run the ball off tackle with the Power O (FB kick-out, guard pull), the Lead Strong, the Lead Open and some misdirection.
A veteran back? Someone like Marion Barber from Dallas? A downhill back who runs angry and hits the hole with force? Barber would be an ideal running back for the Chargers and is the type of back they could lean on in the red zone. There’s talk — or speculation — that Barber could be on the market. Felix Jones has the backing of owner Jerry Jones, and Tashard Choice is the best No. 3 option in the league.
But the good money is on the draft and the Chargers looking for a back in the first round later this month. In his latest mock, the NFP’s Wes Bunting has San Diego taking Cal’s Jahvid Best off the board at No. 28. Best does have enough power and speed in his game to be productive under Turner. I like him in this scheme. Get him the ball deep in the backfield, get downhill, make one cut and go.
There’s always the possibility that Smith trades up to a more attractive option such as C.J. Spiller of Clemson or goes the other route: waiting to later in the draft to snag a Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech or Stanford’s Toby Gerhart, two runners who should excel in the NFL.
The bottom line is that the options are there. San Diego has Sproles, but it still needs to add a player who can carry the ball time after time in the fourth quarter and score TDs in the red zone.
The need is there, and for this team to win he AFC West and make a postseason run, this month will be telling by the moves it makes or creates in the backfield.
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