Chargers RB Branden Oliver likely out for season
By Matt Pagels
The San Diego Chargers took a hard hit to their running back corps on Sunday.
You know the sickening feeling when something is wrong but you try to pretend it didn’t happen? That’s what I felt when I saw Branden Oliver smash his fist on the field after going down late in the second quarter–and the replay of his injury didn’t do me any favors.
The third-year running back was eventually carted off the field after suffering what appeared to be an Achilles injury. San Diego Union-Tribune’s Michael Gehlken reported that Oliver will likely miss the 2016 season due to that very injury.
Chargers RB Branden Oliver (Achilles) has been ruled out for the season, source said.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) August 28, 2016
It isn’t set in stone yet, but man, that is some terrible news. Oliver, 25, was supposed to be the change-of-pace back to Melvin Gordon, with Danny Woodhead being the primary third-down back. After surprising many people his rookie year (2014), Oliver was looking to bounce back after missing the final eight games of the 2015 season with turf toe. He will be a restricted free agent in 2017.
The Chargers need to find a replacement for Oliver, as they are now lacking in depth. Dreamius Smith, a 2015 undrafted free agent, saw a lot more action with Oliver being out. He also got a little banged up in Sunday’s game, too. He leads the Chargers in rushing attempts (21) in three preseason games, but he’s only rushed for 44 yards including a measly 2.1 yards per carry.
2016 undrafted free agent Kenneth Farrow will also compete for a roster spot. He’s similar in size (5-9) to Oliver and possesses a similar skill set in terms of pass-catching skills and toughness. Unfortunately, he did not play in Saturday’s game.
The free-agent market doesn’t boast the best of options, but the Chargers could take a look at former Bills running back Karlos Williams, former Raiders running back Roy Helu and former Lions running back Joique Bell.
In terms of overall talent, Williams, a fifth-round pick a year ago, is the guy. He showed flashes of dominance as a backup (and starter) to LeSean McCoy. He tallied 93 rushes for 517 yards and nine total touchdowns in 14 games (seven starts)–so why not sign him ASAP?
Well, of course there is baggage. He’s suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He gained a lot of weight during the offseason and did not seemed focused, which led to his release in Buffalo. He’s only 23 years old, so if Williams can get back into shape and commit to playing football, the Chargers should consider picking him up.