Dec 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Le

The Lost Fullback (Chargers Le’Ron McClain)

By James Fedewa

Once upon a time, in a city in southern California lived a fullback. He was a big, mean & stout fullback that really liked to block defenders and crush opponents. He blocked for halfbacks, he chipped for quarterbacks, he protected for screen passes and he even drifted out as a receiver on the occasional bubble screen. His sole role was to do the dirty work for the offense and help his team perform better as a unit. He never thought about himself, stats, rushes, touchdowns or personal accolades.  He just blocked with fearless abandonment, throwing himself into the line of scrimmage without fear. He is a paver and his offensive line was the road-graders. A battering ram…

When the San Diego Chargers signed fullback Le’Ron McClain in 2012, most of the fantasy football world recognized that pairing up the two-time pro bowl fullback McClain with running back Ryan Matthews could be a very potent and dynamic duo.  McClain was the top rated free agent at his position last season, which made Ryan Matthews a projected number one overall fantasy football draft pick. “The next Adrian Peterson,” was the talk…  The 6 foot, 260 lbs. fullback, McClain is built like a projectile fire-hydrant that is practically a third offensive guard. A good fullback is a textbook feature that was underutilized on a weak and damaged 2012 Chargers offensive line (just as Lorenzo Neal did in LaDanian Tomlinson’s prime).

Unfortunately, Norv Turner barely used a fullback in 2012. Turner would pull McClain for multiple tight end sets and three receiver sets.  If Eddie Royal or Michael Spurlock were in the slot, McClain was out. If tight ends Dante Rosario or Randy McMichael were in (with Antonio Gates), McClain was out. McClain was barely used at all and Ryan Matthews was barely even featured as a primary weapon. Instead, Turner kept throwing the ball, in college shotgun formations, behind one of the weakest, injured and patchwork offensive lines in professional football. Yet, Turner still abandoned the run and play-action passing in 2012 focusing primarily on passing, as Turner had one of his worst play-calling and substitution seasons in his career.  San Diego did have a lot of depth and talent at tight end and wide receiver, but with the lacked depth, cohesiveness and talent on the offensive line applied more pressure on O-Linemen and quarterback Phillip Rivers, as Turner insisted on throwing the ball more (when they should have been running and max-protecting more).

The best way to help a porous offensive line is with a blocking tight end plus a blocking fullback. LeRon McClain (half of that equation) is a complete player, not focusing on only one aspect of his position, but all three requirements (blocking, with slight rushing and receiving).  Antonio Gates does not block as he should only be seen as a big (amazing) #1 receiver (subtracting from the equation).  2013 will refocus on the Chargers strengths and personnel, including the fundamentals of blocking for your superstar quarterback and obviously most talented player maker, Ryan Matthews. Baring health and injuries, the Chargers will be improved (and set on the right path) with new and proper management and coaching staff focusing on their current talent in 2013.

If LeRon McClain is to be used more in 2013 to help the offensive line and running game, expect some positional cuts or possible trades at wide receiver for the Chargers. There are too many starting caliber receivers on the Chargers, and not enough starting positions…


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  • Sergio Quintero

    If McCoy offense looks like the one he ran in Denver, the fullback will be barely used.

    Denver was either a 2 TE’s offense, or 3-5 WR, they didn’t play much classic pro formation. My guess is that McClain doesn’t make the team.

    • shayaaa

      Also the current highest paid FB in the league..

    • jamfed

      If you want to Help that O-line, you play McClain and use him to BLOCK

  • Cgoodness13

    I imagine he moves to TE for blocking duties a lot this season

  • Alter Ego

    LeRon knows what’s at stake. We root for our gladiators. Last year, LeRon wasn’t much of a difference maker – even if it wasn’t his fault. He has to prove his value to McCoy. There is no sense in having a bull dozer if you keep it in the garage. He will have to be the man animal that is too bone crushing good to keep locked away – when he does that…we will root for him to bust heads. The best 53 – no excuses.

  • joerockt

    Doesn’t make it more glaringly obvious that Norv didn’t care much for AJ’s pickups. I’m sure AJ was a “you get what I give you” type of guy.

    Would love to see more I formation and pro set.

    • jamfed

      A good coach uses his best players. I’ll take AJ Smith over Norv Tuner any day. AJ drafted a lot of pro bowlers.and superstars and his coaches failed him and all Chargers fans

      • joerockt

        I think you’re giving McClain a little too much credit there. I hated Norv, but he did put McClain in here and there and didn’t really dazzle anyone.

        AJ also drove away all of those pro bowlers and superstars, fired a 14-2 coach, alienated the fans and was hit and miss with the draft a la English, Cason, Buster and Mathews. But go head, defend the guy.

  • tubbs45

    Say what you will about LeRon, but he still has ‘it’. McCoy and Whiz will make big use of him on that right side. They are going to pave roads right over the defense…

  • ECAVILLE/Ace of Spades

    McClain will make a big difference this year. The Wiz does know the applications of a tuff fullback. Coach W. did win the Superbowl with the Stealers. This coaching staff knows what they are doing.

    • jamfed

      Wiz knows how to utilize a BIG back to. McClain could be a rushing threat too…

  • arnie

    James, hit it right on the head. If i had to add to it, norv a was a one dimensional coach, that was clueless on how to use Le’Ron, and the running game.
    also, when you said “lost” i thought he was injured or released….

    • jamfed

      I don’t think Norv really focused on utilizing his talents, only one (RIVERS). Norv is QB excessive and this is a TEAM game with balance.

  • C.Steele

    Great Article James! I know it’s tough to find new story lines this time a year, but keep them coming! Your’re one of a few writers, that I don’t have to wonder if they even watch sports after reading their “articles”. LOL! #GoBolts!

    • jamfed

      Hey… thank you! for the last three years, I recognized that the Chargers rarely ran the ball three times in a row, AND I’D BEG FOR IT! Run Run Run! Norv failed.

  • miketuck

    It’ll be Turners lack of using the two back backfield and a rebuilt line. I’m stoked that they got a GM with eyes and a bit of common since. Rivers, Mathews, McClain and the entire weapons department were stored away last year because Mr. Smith forgot that the most important thing to have is a great Oline. Well folks now we have some depth, but just because you have the players doesn’t mean squat unless you pay for a great OLine Coach. If they play as 1, a unit that lookout for each other, Manning will again have tones of troubles with the Chargers. Rivers with a rebuilt line, the first one after Martys was dispensed home or elsewhere, will have the finest 3 years of his career. He has the weapons, ( I’m tired of the Jackson worshippers) instead we have Alexander and Brown, that’s a improvement for sure. But the biggest addition will be Woodhead, Rivers last option. Mathews will blow-up with a rebuilt line, Woodhead and Brown will do the same.
    The defense has the right personnel at the right spots, minus Johnson who was a Baltimore side attraction. Phillips being let go ( to the Broncos no less) was a real fumble by Telesco. Here’s your true draftee, a through and through Charger whos only flaw was a Defensive sceme that had Phillips playing the recievers while run specialist Johnson was used to blitze or fill the holes. Phillips was brought here for the same reason we now have Freeny. Imagine those two together, it would be Merriman and Phillips #2. Phillips spent most of the last two seasons chasing recievers or laying back to cut down screens. Pagano was suppose to bring the heat, he tryed using Johnson which couldn’t find the QB with a GPS. His speed is gone and his thinking is flawed. He let screens and runners get to the outside constantly. I can’t understand the man love here. Phillips we knew what we were getting and he showed up at some of the most important times, causing fumbles or ints while sacking the QB. Pagano better show McCoy a attack mode that is fierce enough to get a great deal of sacks or he’s gone. Bront Bird showed how great he was in replacing Butler in all those last of the season wins. He’s tall 6’4″ and strong tackling anybody that had the ball. He proved how good he can be. Yet all I’m hearing is Mouton? Bird ought to be given the OLB part for the preseason to see how he does, just because of his really showing up to take Butlers place which is hard to fill. I think if we get another OLB instead of Johnson were solid.