November 11, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) reacts on the sideline against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the San Diego Chargers 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Running for their...Jobs - The Bolts Ground Game Situation

Alright, before I get to my main story here, I want to send out my prayers to the Muncie family. As already reported here on boltbeat, Chuck Muncie, one of the greatest running backs San Diego has ever seen, died from a heart attack earlier today.

I have to admit, I did not experience his active days in the NFL, but from what I hear and read, it´s clear he was a great man, on and off the field. He had his share with drugs (cocaine) but he was able to overcome his addiction and started his Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, a nonprofit established in 1997 and based in Oxnard, to help young kids avoiding the bad decisions that he made in his early years of his life. Seems like he was a tremendous source of inspiration. So, I hope the Muncie family will have all the energy and strength to get through these dark hours – may god be with them.

Okay, BoltFam, but now lets try to get into this story right here; we are switching from a former stud running back to the current Chargers´ ground game situation.

I´ve been going through some Chargers tape from last season recently and got to watch all the “nice” highlights we´re all too familiar with: a struggling O-Line, a mediocre quarterback, a guy supposed to be the No. 1 wideout becoming one of the No. 1 bench warmers and a coach on the sidelines knowing his time in America´s finest city is coming to an end. But what I didn´t get to see was a ground game; or at least some kind of version of it.

Although the running game was a mess (or a joke or whatever you wanna call it), General Manager Tom Telesco did not address the running back position in this year´s draft. To be fair, he picked the beast from the Southern-East D.J. Fluker in the first round, who should be able to upgrade the ground game via his powerful run blocking skills. But I´ve to admit it was a bit of a head scratcher to me that he selected a quarterback (Brad Sorensen from Southern Utah) instead of a tailback or nose tackle in the last round of the draft. He did pick up Fozzy Whittaker and Danny Woodhead already in March and Michael Hill right after the draft, but when looking at the guys who would have been still available with the 221th pick, like e.g. Kerwynn Williams or Cierre Wood, I was a little bit confused why he did not pull the trigger on one of these runners (or on a nose tackle).

Talking about Cierre Wood…in my mock draft I grabbed the 22-year old running back out of Notre Dame with that last pick at 221. When I saw that he went undrafted I hoped Tom Telesco already picked up the phone talking him into competing for a roster spot in San Diego this offseason. Maybe he has done it, but the Houston Texans had more success doing the same and added him to their roster. I think he would´ve been a solid complement to Danny Woodhead, as he´s everything but a pass blocker (something the former Patriot is very good at).

But whatever – the question now is, who will be able to help Ryan Mathews in the ground game? And who can take over the lead back role when he goes down with an injury, just like he did so many times in past years? Not too sure if the “third-down backs” Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown can handle the rushing game on their own. And due to his history of (season-ending) knee injuries, Fozzy Whittaker can´t be trusted either. Edwin Baker spent most of his rookie year on the practice squad and hasn´t seen any on-field action last year, although the ground game was a mess and couldn´t have been much worse even with an unexperienced rookie.

This is where the name Michael Hill comes in.

Hill finished second in the voting for the Harlon Hill Trophy in 2012; this award is the Division II equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. He was the rushing leader in that division last season with 2186 yards and 16 touchdowns; but he also was able to record three receiving touchdowns.

The 5’10″, 210-pound UDFA has good speed and is capable of breaking tackles. Hill got experience in running in a zone blocking scheme, which is advantageous for both him and the Bolts. This also means that he brings along the required patience to let the O-Line do their job before he chooses his running lane.

So, we´ll have to wait and see what he can do this offseason, but his bio and that 2012 stats definitely sound promising; he should be able to make the final roster.

After all I don´t want to give up on Ryan Mathews just yet, but he is entering his fourth year with the Bolts and hasn´t done too much in the last three seasons that could cement him as legit lead back for the San Diego Chargers for the next few years. I surely hope he can do exactly that in 2013.

I´ll get to an end here right now, but I can´t close this article without mentioning that Ahmad Bradshaw is still a free agent…I´ll leave you with that (maybe we´ll get back to that in another piece).

Thank for you checking out these lines.


R.I.P. Chuck Muncie

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  • MC Boltman

    Thank you Melvin Ingram!…no one gives a s#it about the RB situation right now (not even me…what a waste of time…should have worked on my Kennan Allen video..damn)

    • tubbs45

      A for effort MCB, but head in the sand over Ingram… Damn it T-REX.
      RIP Muncie. Got to meet him as a knee-high, my dad and I used to get to shot off the cannon every home game with Jimmie Polluso the original charger pyro-technician! Muncie would always walk by and give me a high (well low for him) five.

      • MC Boltman

        Thanx very much! And wow, great story – a high five from Muncie, must have been pretty awesome

  • Cgoodness13

    Theirs that RB we drafted last year….and Michael Hill might be a beast so I’m not tripping.

  • arnie

    If it’s any consolation, I do. We’ve been so preoccupied with the LT , now is a good time to look at the RB position, that will need to take some heat off of PR this season. There is am old cliché, “RB are a dime a dozen”, because a good O-line can make any back look good. They simply need to hit the hole, and pick 4 yards when they need it. And kill the clock in the fourth quarter. And the Chargers don’t need a playmaker for that.
    But then again, that is entirely going to be determined, by the five fat guys opening up the holes.
    Just my two cents….

    • MC Boltman

      Yeah, thats why I mentioned D.J. Fluker – he was a great run blocker in college. But I´ve to disagree on one point: A playmaker at RB is always great to have. A guy with great vision and speed, the ability to break tackles and also to make the last guy miss…this is a great way to take off pressure from the passing game and to have multiple options to get into the endzone. But for sure, if the O-Line isn´t able to open holes, then a playmaker type of guy at RB won´t shine either…

      • arnie

        Oh without a doubt a playmaker at RB is always good to have. So don’t me wrong, but considering the current circumstances, they don’t need one, right now. PR is the best, or at least the most important, player on the team and protecting him seems to be the team top priority.
        By not selecting a RB with the last pick, that suggests to me, they still believe Mathews can fill that role. We all saw, in little spurts, what Mathews is capable of and with a better O-line, that could make those spurts more even an consistent. It’s a domino effect, if they can block for Rivers, they can block for the backs.

        • MC Boltman

          Oh would be absolutely fine with me if the O-Line is the only part in the ground game that has to be fixed. I don´t consider it as fixed, but we´ve upgraded the line.
          But the O-Line wasn´t responsible for his injuries and his fumbles in past years…these are my concerns. But maybe the whole team will surprise us and whole NFL universe by putting together a stud season…..uh yeah, nice thought :)

  • Alter Ego

    Nice article Boltman.

    I actually shared the same concerns at RB….but what the Chargers are doing with the offensive line by getting these guys who wear big boy pants has me very optimistic. I can get use to a diet of pancakes on gameday. I believe that Dunlap will be very good for us. I think Clary is a brilliant move to RG. Fluker is an act of God (no insurance policy gonna cover the blood letting) and the emerging leader of the “killer whales”. If TT, coach and the Whiz believed differently we would have signed a FA LT. I think its going to be an out and out mauling when we run the ball…so in short…our RBs are a talented group… I think we are in good shape.
    It is time for Ryan Mathews to unleash the fury though. The injuries have been a killer. The seven lost fumbles in three years has sucked too. But he did put up 1500 yards and go to the Pro Bowl – that didn’t suck. So I’m ready to believe that this year he runs the ball, catches the ball, scores enough to make sailors jealous, doesn’t drop the ball and doesn’t get hurt.
    Woodhead and Brown together had 89 receptions for 817 yds last yr and both averaged above 4.0 yds a carry. Baker was 1st team All Big 10, Fozzy Whitaker was 1st team All Big 12…plus Mike Hill – we got some guys who can tote the rock. We even have our own Gronk and of course McClain who is a proven stud FB. I like the RBs.

    • MC Boltman

      Thank you very much!

      Yeah after all, I´m pretty confident too that at least some of them will be able to make an impact. As for Mathews…if he´ll get injured again or fumbles the ball again for loss 2 or 3 times then his time will be over in San Diego…unless he´ll crack the 2000 yard-mark and score 10+ TDs. (and sure..if he´s able to hold onto the ball then 1000+ yards & 6-7 TDs will be enough to gain TT´s and McCoy´s trust..)

    • MC Boltman

      Oh and btw…you mentioned Clary (at RG)…if we want to have Freeney on our roster then we have to cut some guys – currently we got NO cap space…in June 1 we´ll have $4 million available again but thats not enough for Freeney…doesn´t look good for Clary, Royal…Whitehurst…