The Lost Fullback (Chargers Le’Ron McClain)
By James Fedewa
Dec 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Le
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…