Running Thin

San Diego Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs for a first down in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars during their NFL football game in San Diego, California September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


Last week, Rookie Running Back Ryan Mathews left the game on the cart and everybody was holding their breath. The phenom looked like he may be out for a while and the future was unknown and a lot of questions came up on who would lead the charge. Ryan Mathews has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and has not been able to practice since the injury. His status for this Sunday’s game remains doubtful and we will have to continue to watch his progress as he rests the ankle. Mike Tolbert grabbed hold of the starting job, but with Ryan Mathews possibly out, that would leave a very thin depth chart of: Tolbert, Darren Sproles, and Jacob Hester.

So that leads to the question, are we able to play a game with only a 3 man running back unit? There are some veteran free agents that are available and we can always bring up a guy from the practice squad. Here is a list of candidates that we can look at:

Larry Johnson – the 30 year old running back had a couple of pro bowl seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs but he has been bothered by injuries and legal issues. He has been arrested 4 times since 2003 on various assualt charges against women. The Chargers do not look kindly to players with bad character issues (Vincent Jackson) and will probably not bring in this running back. He has showed signs of age and looks a step slower than he used to be. Expect to pass on “grandmama” Larry Johnson.

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20: Larry Johnson #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against Gerard Warren #61 of the Oakland Raiders during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


Willie Parker – Fast Willie Parker is known for his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a key contributor to their championship title run in Super Bowl XL. He had suffered from a toe turf injury and was eventually overtaken by Rashard Mendenhall. Parker is not as fast as he used to be but has some veteran leadership that he can provide to the young squad.

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20: Willie Parker #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball past Charles Woodson #21 and AJ Hawk #50 of the Green Bay Packers during the game on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)


Justin Fargas – We know Fargas from his days with the Oakland Raiders. He is a bruising running back and his running style is simialr to MIke Tolbert. He was released by the Denver Broncos this season and is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He would have to prove that he is fully recovered from the surgery and that he still has that burst.

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06: Justin Fargas #25 of the Oakland Raiders runs the ball past James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)


Curtis Brinkley – Brinkley is currently on the Chargers practice squad and showed a quick burst in preseason. He is a shifty type back and already knows the current offensive system. He would also be able to contribute to the special teams coverage.

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 02: Curtis Brinkley of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 2, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)


The likely winner will be Brinkley. His ability to play on special teams gives him the edge over the other players. The Chargers would likely have to cut one of the players that is on the current special teams squad. There are questions about the age and effectiveness of the other free agent running backs. Hopefully Mathews is able to recover quickly and we won’t have to make a move.

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Tags: Curtis Brinkley Justin Fargas Larry Johnson Ryan Mathews Willie Parker

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